How do computers work?

How do computers work? 

Computers are high technological devices that are programmed to carry out instructions in digital form. Helping you to access the internet too, but the big question now is How do computers work?

There is a huge amount of complicity when it comes to how a computer works. A lot of ways as humans, our memories make up who we are and it helps us to remember a lot of things, just like our past, an enhancement to learning and retaining of skills learned.

With the help of a human’s memory, persons can plan for themselves. Computers which often act as an extension of ourselves, also play the same role. Whether carrying out functions which could be reading of articles, watching movies, text files or it could be the instructions for carrying out commands.

Everything in the computer’s memory is in digital formats. It takes the form of binary digits. Each of these is stored in the memory cell that has the ability to switch between two states which are OFF(0) and ON(1).

File and programs consist of million of these bits. They are processed in the CPU( central processing unit). Before then, you may want to ask why do computers use 1’s and 0’s to store information?

Why do computers use 1’s and 0’s

For computers or any electronic devices that have the ability to store information, they use the digital form which is 1s and 0s. This is common that everything in a computer’s brain uses the 1s and 0s and these codes are called binary.

Data stored in a computer are in binary form for which the computer can easily process. Although many of us seem not to understand what binary is or why computers use them. This concept is quite an easy and fascinating one.

Binary was already in existence even before computers came on board. The idea of binary is just a system of counting, although there are other systems of counting which include; Tally marks and Base ten positional counting which is the normal and common counting method we do.

When you talk about the counting system, tally marks are the simplest form of counting, it works in marks. Let’s say you have five balls, all you simply do is to just put down 5 marks. Although this system of counting is not efficient.

Computers work: System of counting

Commonly used today, is the base-ten positional system of counting. Uses different symbols to represent different amounts of things. Compare to others, this type of system is more effective. They can take from tens, units, decimal points, tenths, hundredths, and even thousandths.

Each digital exponentially represents the number of things. This is what most persons know already but it’s useful in understanding what binary is. Binary works almost the same way as that of the base-ten positional. But instead of going from 0-9, it goes from 0-1 and counting upward in binary is of this form; 0, 1, 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111 and 1000.

Because binary has only 0 and 1, an additional increase only represents an increase in power of 2 rather than in power of 10. So when you ear about binary, you should be thinking of an increase in power of 2. This counting system is nearly as efficient as that of the Base ten positional, but when compared to the Tally marks, they are more efficient. 

Now that we understand what binary is, then let’s understand how it relates to computers. Since the base-ten positional counting system is more efficient, why don’t we use them?.

Why do Computers use Binary Digit

The reason for this is because of the physical limitations of how a computer works. Everything in a computer links down to what is known as micro-transistors. Micro transistors are tiny electronic components that act as switches. With little/weak electrical charges, they can either be turned ON or OFF.

Let’s say you want your computer to count using the Tally marks counting system. For each count, you will require the same amount of micro transistors. It’s best to use a more efficient counting system which is the binary. Where each switch represents a system of binary, 8 micro transistors in Tally marks represents a maximum space of 8. While in a binary counting system, it represents a maximum space of 255.

It’s interesting to know that the binary digit or a bit in a computer is the micro transistors. When we have eight of this bit in a roll, we call it a byte. This implies any number between 0-255.

Computers work: Binary of Spelling

Since binary is just a counting system, can you use binary for spelling? Yes, you can, when you talk about spellings in binary, what you simply mean is “How to spell things with the help of ASCII which stands for AMERICAN STANDARD CODE FOR INFORMATION INTERCHANGE.

With this, computer’s data in 1’s and 0’s can be converted to words for users to read. With the help of ASCII, each character is assigned with bits of values. Since a byte can take up to 255 positional value, ASCII then assigns 255 letters for computers to choose from.

The letter D in decimal form is 68 while in binary form is 01000100. These assigned positions can take all letters and other kind of symbols. So when you click on letter D on your computer’s keyboard, what the computer sees is a byte in 01000100 that’s OFF, NO, OFF, OFF, OFF, OFF, ON, OFF, OFF.

So imagine spelling your name on a computer. Think of the numerous bits it’s retrieving at that point in time. With the advancement of computers, like playing 3D games, it was found that a byte wasn’t good enough to do the job, though it could store up to 255. So computers were assigned to two bytes arranged as a single byte which resulted in 16 bits.

This was a huge improvement Because from 255 which was gotten from one byte, computers can now exponentially get up to 65535 counting positions. This is more or less what 8 bits or 16 bits are, but not all bit is used at the same time.

For this reason, you can’t literally make conclusions that a 16 bits system is more powerful than an 8 bits system. With more improvements, you can get up to 64 bits system.

How Computers work

Why do computers use 1’s and 0’s

These micro transistors are stored in the memory cell that can switch between OFF(0) and ON(1). Files and programs run consist of millions of bits, all stored in the CPU( central processing unit). The CPU act as the brain of the computer. As the number of bits increases, computer designers have to put into consideration cost, speed and size.

A computer has long term memory for permanent storage while short term memory for the immediate task. When you run a program, the computer operating system then allocates a particular area within the short term memory to help perform this instruction.

In other words, when you click on a key on the computer keyboard, the CPU goes ahead to locate one of these locations where the key is and display it on the screen for its user to read. The CPU also helps in modifications.

Memory latency is the period of time for a command to run on a computer. Since a computer requires fast and random action, so all locations in the computer memory can be accessed in any order. Here the RAM (random access memory) comes into play.

Computers work: RAM (random access memory)

The most common you find around is the DRAM ( dynamic random access memory ). Each memory cell consists of micro transistors and capacitors. The capacitor helps to store electric charges, that’s a 0 when no charge and a 1 when charges are present.

The DRAM holds charges within a very short period of time before disappearing. It requires periodic recharging to retain data. The DRAM has a low memory latency of 100 nanoseconds, although, for modern CPU, this latency is too long.

The SRAM ( the static random access memory ) made out of the DRAM. The SRAM has a short memory latency compared to the DRAM. It consists of six interlock micro transistors and they don’t need refreshing, despite their fast latency. Compared to the DRAM, they are expensive, occupy more space.

Both RAM can only retain data only when the computer is turned ON, for data to remain even when a computer is turned OFF, they have to be transferred to a long term storing device.

Computers work: The Hard Disc Drive

There you find the magnetic storing device. When compared, this device is very cheap. It stores data as a magnet on a spinning disc. Although the memory latency of this device is very slow because the disc has to rotate of locations where the data is to retrieve them.

The DVD ( digital versatile disc) which is an optical base storing device. It also uses a spinning disc like that of the magnetic storing device but here the disc is reflectively coded. Bits are coded as dark and light spot only read by a laser, DVD has the following;

  1. Slow latency 
  2. Cheap
  3. External   
  4. Low capacity 

Computers work: The SSD (solid-state drive)

After much improvement, the SSD (solid-state drive) which is the newest and fastest storing device came on board, it doesn’t have moving parts instead they consist of flowing gate transistors that store bit by trapping and removing electrical charges.

Computers are affected by external factors such as an increase in the ambient temperature resulting in heat. These factors demagnetize hard discs and result in charge leakages in floating gates in that of the solid-state drive. Repeating data into the SSD can also lead to losses in data.

Technological improvement is working really hard to ensure that computers attain immorality as to being fast, smaller and more durable. Let’s check out the history of computers.

History of computers 

Computers have really gone a long way in making life easy for us. It started paving the way in 2500BC. The time of Abacus which was considered as a calculating machine employed for counting.

Abacus was made of rods and beads and it was mainly used for multiplication, addition, division, and subtraction. In 1614AD, it was this time the Napier’s Bone came on board. The device was named after the inventor John Napier who was a Scottish mathematician. The Napier’s Bone consisted of 9 rods, 1 for each digit and 1 through the 9 digits, it also had a constant rod for digit 0.

During 1633 AD, the slide rule was invented by William Oughtred who was an English mathematician and Anglican clergyman. The slide rule has two sets of scaled joined together with a marginal space placed between them.

The Rotating wheel calculator found its way to 1642AD, it was first developed by Blaise Pascal, a French philosopher. The calculator consists of levers and gears, this was a lead towards today’s calculator.

The Difference Engine was invented in 1822AD by Charles Babbage who was a British Engineer and mathematician. He was known as the father of today’s computer. While the Hollerith Tabulating machine came through in 1890AD. Invented by Herman Hollerith, the machine uses an electromechanical punched card to help in summarizing information.

Computer’s Generation.

The first generation of computers was between 1940-1956 and this generation of computers uses the vacuum tube for circuitry and magnetic drum for the purpose of memory. This type of computer could only solve a single problem at a time.

The second generation of computers uses transistors and this was between 1956-1963, although the transistors used printout for output and punched cards for input.

It became more advanced during the invention of the third generation of computers between 1964-1971. Here the ICs ( integrated circuit ) were used instead of just transistors. Transistors were integrated into smaller sizes and placed on silicon chips which did enhance the efficiency and speed of a computer. This could solve more than one problem at a time.

The 4th generation made use of microprocessors starting from 1971 to date. The microprocessors entail thousands of integrated circuit built in a single silicon chip. This made computers more powerful and could then be linked together to form a network( internet ). Click here to know how the internet works.

Computers have developed to its 5th generation, using AI ( artificial intelligence ) and still undergoing more improvement. 

Thanks for coming around and don’t forget to check out the telecommunication category under academics to learn more about telecommunication.

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