Unit 7. Evolution of computers

Topic B: Computer hardware and software

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Computer Hardware Basics

– any physical device or equipment used in or with a computer system (anything you can see and touch).

External hardware

  • – any hardware device that is located outside the computer.
  • – a piece of hardware device which is used to enter information to a computer for processing.
  • Examples: keyboard, mouse, trackpad (or touchpad), touchscreen, joystick, microphone, light pen, webcam, speech input, etc.
  • – a piece of hardware device that receives information from a computer.
  • Examples: monitor, printer, scanner, speaker, display screen (tablet, smartphone …), projector, head phone, etc.

Internal hardware

  • – any piece of hardware device that is located inside the computer.
  • Examples: CPU, hard disk drive, ROM, RAM, etc.

Computer Software Basics

Computer software

  • – a set of instructions or programs that tells a computer what to do or how to perform a specific task (computer software runs on hardware).
  • Main types of software – systems software and application software.

Application software

  • – a computer program that provides users with tools to accomplish a specific task.
  • Examples of application software: word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, database management, Internet browsers, email programs, media players, accounting, pronunciation, translation, desktop publishing, enterprise, etc.

System Software

– it is designed to run a computer’s hardware and application software, and make the computer system available for use. It serves as the interface between hardware, application software, and the user.
A computer functions through interactions between the user, applications, the operating system, and the hardware.

  • Main functions of system software – allocating system resources, managing storage space, storing and retrieval of files, providing security, etc.
  • Main types of systems software – operating system, device driver, utility software, programming software, etc.

– a software that controls and coordinates the computer hardware devices and runs other software and applications on a computer. It is the main part of system software and a computer will not function without it.

  • Main functions of an operating system – booting the computer, managing system resources (CPU, memory, storage devices, printer, etc.), managing files, handling input and output, executing and providing services for application software, etc.
  • Examples of operating system: Microsoft Windows, Apple iOS, Android OS, macOS, Linux, etc.

– a software program that is designed to control a particular hardware device that is attached to a computer.

  • The main purpose of device driver – it acts as a translator between the hardware device and operating systems or applications that use it.
  • It instructs computer on how to communicate with the device by translating the operating system’s instructions into a language that a device can understand in order to perform the necessary task.
  • Examples of device driver: printer driver, display driver, USB driver, sound card driver, motherboard driver, ROM driver, etc.

– a type of system software that helps set up, analyze, configure, strengthen, maintain a computer and performs a very specific task (e.g. antivirus software, backup software, memory tester, screen saver, etc.).


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Key Concepts of Computer Studies by Meizhong Wang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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