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An Introduction to Hardware for Beginners: A Primer

written by: Ashwin Satyanarayana•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/6/2009

If you suddenly realize that your computer doesn't seem to start the way it usually does, what do you do? Most people panic. If only you knew how computers work and everything you could fathom about the hardware, things would be so much easier. Knowledge is power. Let's demystify computer hardware.

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    When I first purchased my PC -- and it was a long time ago (was it like 12 years now?) -- I really didn’t know what makes a computer tick, and how it does what it does. All I needed it for was playing games, listening to music, and surfing the web. As I grew up, my professional demands and my raging need for answers quickly drove me to try and understand how the computer really works. I wanted to see what the brouhaha about hardware, software, and the Internet was all about.

    The beautiful thing about the computers -- from the very beginning, starting with IBM’s early computers -- was that the development of computers has always been well-documented and has been in an open architecture mode (Simply said, it is thrown open for anyone to develop any part of the computer -- meeting the standards, of course).

    Although this expanded, rather large and continuing tutorial is all about hardware and everything you ever had to know about the various parts of your computer, it might meander into software and other related areas. Just as man is not a single island, computer parts can’t be isolated and explained, just like that.

    This tutorial brings up-to-date information on the very basics of computers, how they compute, how they operate, the various parts that make up the wonderful machine that it is, and how it works that way. You will begin to understand how each of these parts work together to add your two and two.

    The computer has forever been in an “evolution” mode and has a vibrant history, to say the least. However, the basic parts have always been the same although the efficient, power and sheer competence of each of these parts has radically improved with time. Some of the most basic components of a PC include the Mother Board (also just called as the board) which houses the CPU (The brain of the computer) and all the complex circuitry -- the transistors, back-up batteries, memory chips, and all the other important parts of the computer together.

    This Guide starts with some basics on electronics because that is a necessary foundation for your understanding of the working of these computer parts and then would take a peek into the mysterious workings of each of these parts.