How can I learn more about computers?
This document is for anyone interested in learning more about their computer and how it works. In this page, you'll be linked to related documents throughout Computer Hope that can teach you everything you want to know about your computer.
15 computer basics
- Transistors - The computer contains millions of transistors, which are used to create machine language.
- Machine language - All computers and electronic devices communicate in binary, which is a series of 0's and 1's or Off and On electrical signals. All software written on your computer is created in a high-level programming language that humans can understand, when complete the program is compiled into the machine language computers understand.
- ASCII codes - Each binary 0 or 1 is considered a bit and each number, letter, or other character are made up eight bits (one byte). A common method for storing and editing text is done with ASCII codes, which is one byte of binary. For example, the lowercase letter "a" has a ASCII code decimal value of 97, which is 01100001 in binary.
- Motherboard - The Motherboard is the largest circuit board in the computer that holds and connects everything together. Without the motherboard, components like your processor and memory couldn't communicate with each other.
- Processor - The processor or CPU is the brain of the computer and is where all instructions given to the computer are handled.
- Computer memory - Not to be confused with disk storage, the computer memory (RAM,) is volatile memory and is used to store currently running applications. When the computer is turned off, all data in the memory is lost.
- Computer disk storage - Also considered a memory, but a non-volatile memory, hard drive storage is what stores your information even when the computer is turned off. Disk storage is what stores all your personal files, documents, songs, photo's, etc.
- ROM - Yet another memory, read-only memory (ROM) is a memory chip that has data that can only be read. Most computers today have a programmable read only memory (PROM), which is still read-only but can be re-programmed if needed with a firmware update.
- Memory capacity - All memory and storage has a total capacity, which is written using abbreviations such as KB, MB, GB, and TB. See the full overview of all computer capacities for a complete understanding of all values.
- Input/Output - A computer works with a human by him or her inputting data using an input device such as a keyboard, having the processor process that data, and then displaying the output on an output device such as a monitor. The printer is also another output device and is what allows you to get a hard copy of documents and pictures stored on the computer.
- Expansion cards - An expansion card is a card that can be added to the computer to give it additional capabilities. A video card, modem, network card, and sound card are all examples of expansion cards. However, many computers may also have on-board devices, such as a sound card and network card that are built onto the motherboard. For a laptop computer, additional cards are added into the PC Card slot.
- Software and Hardware - Software is instructions and code installed into the computer, for example, the Internet browser you're using to read this page is software. Hardware is a physical device you can touch, for example, the monitor you're using to read this page is hardware. See the differences between computer hardware and software for more information.
- Programming - All software running on the computer has been created using a programming language by a computer programmer.
- Operating system - Every computer must have an operating system in order to allow the software to communicate with the hardware. For example, most IBM compatible computers run the Microsoft Windows operating system and have the option to run alternative operating such as a Linux variant. Apple computers only run MacOS.
- Network - Computers communicate with other computers over a network using a network interface card (NIC). There are two primary types of networks a local area network (LAN) and a wide area network (WAN). The Internet is also considered a network.
Understanding each of the major hardware components that make up a computer is always a good first step in learning more about computers. To learn more about each of the components in the computer, its connections, as well as a full explanation of each of the internal parts of a computer see our computer definition.
How does a computer work?
Knowing how the computer works after you press the power button is also an excellent way to learn more about your computer.
The history of computers and how they've progressed over the years is another great way get a better understanding of computers. We've listed several thousand key events in our computer history section and list hundreds of computer pioneers who have made the computer industry what it is today.
Computers and their related software are hardware are constantly evolving. Try to keep as up-to-date as possible by reading computer related news, computer related blogs, RSS feeds, newsletters, forums, and following computer people on social networking sites like Twitter.
Ready to test yourself and learn more about computers at the same time. Take the Computer Hope quiz, which contains hundreds of computer related questions. After each question is answered, a brief description of the answer is given as well as additional information and related links. When the quiz is completed, you'll get a complete overview of what categories you may need to learn more about and links to where you can find that information.
Free college courses
Many of the big colleges and Universities have posted free online courses that can be watched by anyone that cover a wide range of computer related topics. Watching these online can give you a similar education to what you may get by going to school.
Online free books
There are hundreds of thousands of online computer books and computer related e-books that can be downloaded. See the eBook definition for a full listing of places to find books online for free and legally.