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23
Apr
2012

Computer Systems and the Way They Operate

Very few people understand how computers work even though they are built into nearly every device.  Even though many people can go their whole lives without knowing how they work, it can be a great idea to learn to understand the logic regarding how it works.  The basic design that computers are made from is really rather simple compared to the pieces themselves, since there is just a simple flow of information.

The mind of the computer system is called the central processing unit.  Much like the human brain, the processor has many different levels of memory and is the place where information is processed.  Today’s processors have multiple “cores” which are actually just multiple processors included in one unit.  There are also multiple layers of cache memory integrated into the processor that act like a higher level of system RAM.  The idea is that these degrees of cache will store frequently requested processes and use that data rather than reprocessing it repeatedly.  The level 3 cache will typically be more plentiful but be slower, whereas the level 1 cache will be faster with less storage space.

The system RAM is the next stage of memory, but serves a slightly different functionality than cache.  The RAM is where programs are “loaded” to when opening for much faster access than the hard drive can read.  Though loading to the RAM is where a lot of the wait time is spent when opening an application, without it, many different things would not be possible as things would be so slowly pulled from the hard drive.  A hard drive is still necessary because the nature of RAM is to lose all of its information as soon as the computer system is turned off.

Storage is the primary intent behind the hard drive even though it does serve as an even lower form of RAM sometimes.  Many other components are not necessary for the core functionality of the system, but are necessary for a user to operate it.  In order to share files and gain access to the Internet, a network card must be used.  While data centers need to have many Cisco GLC-T or other SFP transceiver modules to run efficiently, most home systems get away with using one single Ethernet port per system for communication.  Normally a sound card and video card need to be installed to produce a picture to see and sound.  In order to offer routing from one device to another, a motherboard offers the connectivity and minor processing needed to do the job.

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