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1 ("Chapter 4 - Components of the System Unit / page 138, Discovering Computers & Microsoft 2010) I. Computer architecture - refers to the design of a computer system s internal processing components. The architecture will vary depending upon the manufacturer. Prototype architectures exist for IBM & compatible systems as well as for Apple & Macintosh. The faster and more complex the architecture will in turn determine the price of the system. Most computers are digital and represent and store data electronically. A. Digital electronics There s a misconception that because we have computers in different countries, a computer understands different languages. In reality, computers only understand information if it is expressed electronically. Because computers are electronic, everything entered into the system must be translated into a special electronic code in order for the computer to understand it. 1. Binary code or machine language is the name of the electronic language the computer understands. Everything entered into the computer must be translated into this language. 2. Bit (binary digit) is the smallest unit used to represent data. The 1 bit represents the presence of electricity, the 0 bit represents the absence of electricity. Because the two bits (1, 0) are not enough to represent all the characters entered into a computer, the computer instead uses a byte (which is a combination of eight bits) to represent a character. 3. Byte - the basic binary unit used to electronically represent characters within a computer. A byte is comprised of eight bits. 4. Compiler - is a special program (in the operating system) responsible for the conversion of data into machine language. As you enter numbers to be used in formulas into the computer, the compiler translates them into bytes. All other characters not used in formulas contain their binary equivalent in a coding scheme table. Sounds & colors must first be converted into numbers and subsequently into bytes. 5. Coding scheme tables - standardized binary tables. When the user enters a character not used in a formula, the operating system looks up the character in the table and loads the binary equivalent into memory. Below are the names of three common binary tables and on the next page an actual extended ASCII table. a. ASCII American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Most commonly used among smaller systems (PCs). b. EBCDIC Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code. Developed by IBM for use in larger systems. c. UNICODE a 16 bit code used to represent over 65,000 characters FALL

2 II. The System unit Information is processed and stored within the system unit. Below is a pictorial representation of the components inside the system unit. The system unit is also referred to as the tower, console, or simply the box. As illustrated on your book CD a system unit can be found in many different areas depending on the device you use. By far the most important component in the system unit is the motherboard. FALL

3 A. The Motherboard is the circuit board that contains computer chips directly responsible for processing. The motherboard typically contains the microprocessor, various memory chips, expansion slots/cards, and system busses. All devices are in some manner connected to the motherboard. 1. How data and instructions travel within the system: a. Busses are electronic pathways or circuits etched into the surface of the motherboard used to carry data and programming instructions to various computer components. b. Data bus width varies between 8, 16, 32, 64, or 128 bits. The wider the bus the better for the computer because it means data travels faster. The width of the bus is one of many factors that determine the processing speed and efficiency of a computer. c. Busses are positioned throughout the motherboard interconnecting all electronic chips and components (like arteries and veins that run through the human body transporting blood) d. System or Front Side Bus - Connects the CPU to RAM e. Backside Bus - Connects the CPU to Cache memory f. Expansion Bus - Connects the CPU to Peripherals 2. Computer storage areas: a. RAM - the computer s scratchpad. Temporary storage area for data, programming instructions, portions of the operating system, and processed information waiting to be saved or displayed. RAM is like an electronic grid consisting of storage units the width of a byte. The necessary bits within the grid will be turned on or off representing the data that is present. The capacity of RAM is typically expressed in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB) Before Windows Vista, computers could survive on between 128 MB to 512 MB. Vista & Windows 7 now require GB RAM capacity. The more RAM a computer has the more efficiently the system works. 1.) RAM chips. Depending upon system requirements, brand, and microprocessor, the type of RAM chip your computer needs will vary. Below are examples of popular RAM chips used today: a.) b.) DRAM "Dynamic" RAM, most common. Must be energized often to retain contents, many variations exist MRAM "Magnetoresistive" RAM. Stores data using magnetic instead of electrical charges. Many advantages, faster, greater capacity, generates less heat FALL

4 b. CMOS is a semi-permanent chip that stores the configuration settings of your system s hardware devices. The operating system cannot identify and access your hardware until it obtains the configuration settings (capacities, types, etc.). CMOS contents is considered semi-permanent because of the CMOS power source (a battery). The battery provides power to CMOS allowing it to retain it s contents when the computer is off. Like a car battery that discharges when the car is not turned on for a long period of time, so too does the battery in CMOS. The information stored here is accessed during the execution of the computer s startup procedures. c. ROM ROM stands for read only memory and is a permanent storage chip that stores firmware or the ROM BIOS, the instructions provided by the computer s manufacturer that are responsible for the startup of your system. Although this is a permanent storage area, unlike secondary storage, the user has no access to this chip. The computer s manufacturer creates and embeds the firmware instructions in ROM. When you press the power button to start your computer, firmware releases a program called the boot strap program that performs the following: 1.) The boot strap program goes to CMOS to obtain the system s hardware configuration and to locate and run the POST 2.) The Power on self test (POST) is a test that confirms the presence of your hardware (as per the configuration settings) and detects possible malfunctions within your computer. The POST will alert the user if any device is not recognized or is not functioning. If the POST is not successful, the computer startup procedures will not advance beyond this point. A successful POST is indicated by a single beep sound emitted by your system 3.) If the POST is successful, the boot strap program will next initiate the Boot process. The boot process is the loading of the operating system into memory. Your computer will not work until a copy of the operating system is present in RAM. a.) The first place the boot strap program checks for the operating system is your floppy drive or a non-hard drive location. In the event of a head crash where your hard drive is inoperable, you can still start your computer with a floppy (or other device) containing boot up files. A device with boot up files is called a boot disk. USB drives and CDs can also be bootable. b.) If a floppy or alternate boot device is not present in a storage drive, the boot strap program next searches the hard drive for the operating system c.) When the boot strap program locates your operating system on the hard drive it does not load the entire program. Your operating system is divided into essential (internal or kernel) and non-essential (external) programs. Only the essential portion of the operating system is loaded during booting. (the vital instructions required for basic computer operations) The non-essential portion of your operating system remains on the hard drive and programs from this category are only loaded into RAM as needed. (example: the FORMAT & DISKCOPY programs) 4.) If all the startup procedures are completed successfully, the Window s desktop will then appear (see diagram on the next page) 5.) A Cold boot is the initial loading of the O.S. when the hardware is cold. A cold boot is typically when the user turns on the computer for the first time. FALL

5 6.) A Warm boot is the reloading of the O.S. usually after an error has occurred during processing. There are three ways to warm boot: a.) Press the reset button on the system unit b.) Press the ctrl + alt + del keys simultaneously on the keyboard c.) Select the restart option on the shutdown menu while exiting from Windows. 7.) If a computer is malfunctioning it will sometimes boot into Safe Mode. Safe Mode is your computer operating in a limited state (you can only use the mouse, monitor, and keyboard) that allows knowledgeable users an opportunity to troubleshoot problems. A computer is not fully functional while in Safe Mode. e. When should I turn off my system? 1.) Some say never the wear and tear of powering a system on and off reduces the life of the circuitry 2.) On the other hand, leaving a system on perpetually results in electricity charges for a computer in an idle state. solution? Power management options: a.) Sleep mode - power to your monitor and disk drive is suspended b.) Hibernation - power to your monitor and disk drive is suspended but data files are automatically saved in the event of a power outage c.) Both of these options can be activated through settings accessible in Windows Control Panel FALL

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