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Computers come in all shapes and sizes. There are laptops, palmtops and desktops, for example. Some have 'DVD drives' whilst others have 'CD R/W units'. There will be a whole range of 'input devices' and 'output devices' attached to every computer, a whole range of 'peripherals'. Some may come with a lot of 'memory' or a little memory, lots of 'cache' or a little cache and before you know it, it all becomes very confusing! You need to make sense of all of the components that make up a 'computer' to really understand it. You need to make sense of the 'hardware'.

Common terms

There are some basic definitions that you should get under your belt before you begin. Everyone will always want to argue over the choice of words in definitions! Opinions will vary greatly however these are near enough the best you can find. *Hardware. “Hardware is the physical part of a computer system - the processor(s), storage, input and output peripherals”.

  • Software. “Software consists of programs, routines and procedures (together with their associated documentation) which can be run on a computer system”.
  • Input device. An input device “is a peripheral unit that can accept data, presented in the appropriate machine-readable form, decode it and transmit it as electrical pulses to the central processing unit”.
  • Storage device. A storage device is “a peripheral unit that allows the user to store data in an electronic form for a longer period of time and when the computer is switched off. The data can only be read by the computer and is not in human-readable form”.
  • Output device. An output device is “a peripheral unit that translates signals from the computer into a human-readable form or into a form suitable for re-processing by the computer at a later stage”.
  • Peripheral. This “is a piece of equipment (or hardware) which can be connected to the central processing unit. They are used to provide input, output and backing storage for the computer system”.


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