- Computers & Software
The Four Major Categories of Computer Hardware
Computer hardware refers to the tangible components that make up a complete computer. Be it a tablet, laptop or desktop, the overriding hardware functionality remain the same albeit the differences in shape, size and design.
In order to understand hardware better, it is imperative to break them down into four distinct categories:
- Input devices: to input raw data.
- Processing devices: to process received instructions into usable information.
- Output devices: to disseminate processed data and information.
- Storage devices: to store data and information for future use.
1: Input Devices
Components which are used to input raw and other data are categorized under input devices.
They aid in feeding raw and other data such as text, images and audiovisual recordings; or even aid in file transfer between computers.
This data is then manipulated by the processor.
The following is a list of commonly used input devices:
- Keyboard - perhaps the most widely
- Pointing devices:
Multi touch screen
Interactive (electronic) smartboard
- Game controller devices:
- Audio input devices:
- Bluetooth peripherals
- Visual and Imaging devices:
Tv capture card
- Network devices:
(Read more about input devices)
2: Processing Devices
Processing is the core function of the computer. It is the stage where raw data is transformed into useful information. Components that manipulate data into information are categorized under processing.
The microprocessor is the major device in this category. It works closely with primary memory during its operations. Data is stored temporarily in primary memory during the processing period.
The microprocessor is subdivided into three important units, which work together in order to accomplish its function. The units are:
- Control unit
- Arithmetic and logic unit
- Register and cache
- The Control Unit
It manages and supervises the operations of the processor and other components that are crucial in data manipulation.
- Arithmetic and Logic Unit (ALU)
The ALU is responsible for all arithmetic and logic operations like addition, multiplication, subtraction, division and comparison logic operations.
- Registers and Cache Memory
These are storage locations inside the processor, which respond to the instructions of the control unit by moving relevant data around during processing.
(Read more about processing devices)
3: Output Devices
Hardware components that disseminate and display both data and information are of the output device category.
This stage is the culmination of a cycle which starts with raw data input and processing.
These components are sub-categorized under softcopy and hardcopy output.
Softcopy output includes the intangible experience. The user derives visual satisfaction by reading a message through display components or listens to audio files through speakers.
On the other hand, hardcopy output devices are tangible printouts like paper and 3D models.
Do you still have a CRT monitor somewhere in your house?
Popular softcopy devices
Interactive (electronic) smartboard
Headphone and earphone
- Network input/output
Wireless and Bluetooth transmissions
- USB input/output
Popular hardcopy devices
- Impact printer
Dot matrix printer
- Non-impact printer
(Read more about output devices)
4: Memory\Storage Devices
Components that store data are classified under memory\storage devices.
Storage is sub-divided under primary and secondary memory and is either volatile or nonvolatile.
Primary memory usually means random access memory (RAM) but also refers to all memory that works in tandem with the processor. RAM is volatile meaning that it retains data only when the computer is powered up.
The central processing unit (CPU) or accelerated processing unit (APU) reads instructions stored in this memory and executes the instructions as required.
Secondary memory is secondary because data stored within secondary storage media (usually disk drives) do not communicate directly with the microprocessor. Any data stored in such media is first transferred to RAM for processing to take place.
This type of memory is also non-volatile since it permits long time storage as opposed to volatile memory.
- Primary memory
- Secondary memory
Secondary storage is sub-divided into two distinct categories. Internal and external storage.
Internal devices are designed to be placed inside the computer at all times i.e. hard disk and solid state disks
External devices are plug and play media used to transfer files between computers i.e. optical disks, flash disks and external disk drives.
(Read more about memory devices)
© 2014 Alfred Amuno