How Computers Work

How does a computer work?

Many of us own a computer and use one almost every day but never actually stop and think about how does a computer work. The word computer refers to an electronic machine that processes information accepting input and producing some output. Our most common use of the word computer, though, is to describe an electronic device containing a microprocessor. Computers get things done as a result of a combination of hardware, software, input, and output. The CPU, or central processing unit, is where most of the heavy lifting occurs. The CPU is basically a powerful calculator that processes billions of calculations per second. So what is it calculating?

The entire foundation of computers or any digital circuit is binary…the 1s and 0s..1 being a pulse of power and 0 being ground. Let’s start from a simple circuit with a switch. This circuit has two states: if the switch is open no current passes; if it is closed, there is current passing through it. This is called a bit, the simplest unit of information, with two possible values: 0 if open, 1 if closed.

From this you can string many of them together to equal a number, that can then represent a letter, string multiple letters into words and those words can be instruction code to tell it what to do.

The processor is able to take these 1s and 0s and and perform various calculations of those numbers to perform many complicated tasks as directed by the hardware or software.

These 1s and 0s are stored on the hard drive until they are needed and then they are fetched and put into ram memory. when a program (also residing in ram memory) executes a task it runs those numbers through the cpu to calculate, pass, or manipulate the 1s and 0s in whatever way the code tells it to.

Next time you are using a computer and input a character into word, play a video game or execute a certain task, you can take a moment to recognise that in order for your computer to successfully carry out that said task, billions of calculation per second is being processed in the background. This is truly amazing.

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