The computer has been among the single biggest inventions of mankind. Moore's law, where computer processors have exponentially doubled in processing capacity every 18 months or so, has been the catalyst of change not only in IT but in every industry that IT affects. In spite of all this, we sometimes still view the computer as a 'magic box' decades after it has become ubiquitous. Computers are 'magic' in the same way human beings can be viewed to be magic. Therefore, we don't need a complete and perfect knowledge of them in order to begin to understand them.
The best way to begin to understand a computer is to establish a focal point. The best focal point to start with is to view the main components of a computer in line with what we are already familiar with.
The brain analogy
A computer is made up of four main components. The Computer Processor, RAM, the Hard Disk Drive and the Motherboard.
1. The Computer Processor
This is where data is processed. It is the most important component of every computer.
The human brain can also be measured in processing power. The better we can process data, the smarter and quicker we will appear to other people.
It is the same with the computer, the better the processor the smoother everything runs.
2. RAM (Random Access Memory)
This is the short term memory of the computer. It is memory that vanishes when you switch off a computer. RAM is quicker than any other memory. The more RAM, the quicker the computer will run. However, the efficacy of the RAM depends upon the other hardware you are dealing with. Therefore sometimes it doesn't matter how much more RAM you add if the hardware isn't good enough.
If we think of our own short term memory, it is often a lot sharper and quicker than our long term memory. We can remember a lot more detail in short term memory than in long term.
3. Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
The Hard Drive is the long term memory. It is where you save and store documents. This memory doesn't disappear when you power off a computer.
It is like the long term memory of a brain that stores our important long term memories. These memories never go away even when we go to sleep. They are filed away for us to access at any point in time in the future.
The motherboard of a computer connects all the component parts together.
The motherboard is the same as the human back bone. The human back bone enables the brain to execute the commands it sends around the body. This is exactly what the motherboard does in a computer.
There are other parts to a computer including the Power Supply Unit (PSU) but these 4 parts are what I deem to be the essential parts.
There are a lot of fans in a computer. It is the fan boxes that often make the computer look a lot more complex than it actually is.