A computer is an electronic device that manipulates information, or data. It has the ability to store, retrieve, and process data. You may already know that you can use a computer to type documents, send email, play games, and browse the Web. You can also use it to edit or create spreadsheets, presentations, and even videos.
Hardware vs. software
let’s talk about two things all computers have in common: hardware and software.
Hardware is any part of your computer that has a physical structure, such as the keyboard or mouse. It also includes all of the computer’s internal parts.
Computer hardware can be categorized as having either internal or external components.
Internal components include items such as the motherboard, central processing unit (CPU), random access memory (RAM), hard drive, optical drive, heat sink, power supply, transistors, chips, graphics processing unit (GPU), network interface card (NIC) and Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports. These components collectively process or store the instructions delivered by the program or operating system (OS).
External components, also called peripheral components, are those items that are often connected to the computer in order to control either its input or output. Common input components include a mouse, keyboard, microphone, camera, touchpad, stylus, joystick, scanner, USB flash drive or memory card. Monitors, printers, speakers, headphones and earphones/earbuds are all examples of output computer hardware components. All these hardware devices are designed to either provide instructions to the software or render results from its execution.
Software is any set of instructions that tells the hardware what to do and how to do it. Examples of software include web browsers, games, and word processors.
Everything you do on your computer will rely on both hardware and software. For example, right now you may be viewing this lesson in a web browser (software) and using your mouse (hardware) to click from page to page. As you learn about different types of computers, ask yourself about the differences in their hardware. As you progress through this tutorial, you’ll see that different types of computers also often use different types of software.