Very few individuals understand how computers work even though they are included in nearly every device. Building a new section of knowledge starts by understanding how the personal computer operates internally, but most can go through their lives without needing to know. There are a couple of core ideas that one must understand to learn how computers work, but overall they are relatively easy in their core design philosophy.
The intellect of the computer system is called the central processing unit. The CPU processes information and holds levels of memory just like the brain in a human being. Today’s processors have numerous “cores” which are actually just multiple processors built into one unit. There are also several layers of cache memory integrated into the processor that act like an increased level of system RAM. The idea is that these degrees of cache will store frequently requested processes and use that data rather than reprocessing it repeatedly. The level 1 cache is the fastest but contains the least space, while the level 3 cache is the slowest but has the highest storage.
After the level 3 cache there is the system RAM, which is basically a separate component altogether. When a program loads, it is essentially being transferred from the hard drive to the system’s RAM for speedier reading. Most programs would not be able to correctly operate if they were basically left on the hard drive and the program used that as opposed to system RAM for high speed access. A hard drive is still essential because the nature of RAM is to lose all of its information once the computer system is turned off.
Storage is the primary function of the hard drive even though it does serve as an even lower form of RAM sometimes. There are many other parts that are not exactly essential but serve an extremely useful purpose. The network card allows a computer to connect with a network of systems to share files or access the Internet. Data centers have a much more complex version of these, such as a Cisco GLC-T or SFP transceiver modules, while home products usually just have a simple Ethernet port for all functionality. Usually a sound card and video card need to be installed to create a picture to see and sound. Motherboards are built to connect everything together and process information between them with more simple integrated chipsets.