Understanding Microcomputers

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References in periodicals archive? Melanie Swalwell's a, b; also see work on the history of Australian videogames identifies the significance of s microcomputing to their evolution. Creative destruction in the Australian videogames industry. I am sure there are other reasons, too--from the revolution in microcomputing to the decades-old push for interprofessionality and interdiscplinarity in many academic organizations. Some thoughts on the study of judicial behavior. Bom into a family of entrepreneurs, Auman started his first business in the early days of microcomputing with his brother and best friend at the age of eighteen after his first year of college.

Suitable for the automotive technician, student or enthusiast, this practical text covers the most recent technological advances in operation and troubleshooting of electronic systems and components. Chapter 1: Automotive Fundamentals. Chapter 3: Electronics Fundamentals. Chapter 4: Microcomputer Instrumentation and Control. Chapter 6: Sensors and Actuators. Chapter 7: Digital Engine Control Systems. Chapter 8: Vehicle Motion Control. Chapter 9: Automotive Instrumentation and Telematics. Chapter Diagnostics. Chapter Future Automotive Electronic Systems. Where higher processor speeds become more important is for applications such as video editing, 3D graphics work and for the majority of "power users" playing computer games!

For any of these applications, within reason the faster the processor the better. This said, people in need a very powerful computer have to be aware that CPU performance is now determined by far more than raw speed alone. Intel made this very clear when it introduced its system of processor numbers.


These provide an indication of a processor's "architecture", "cache" and "front side bus FSB speed" in addition to its clock speed. Alongside clock speed, the architecture of a processor is the most important factor to determine its performance, and refers to its basic design and complexity. Some processors are simply more sophisticated than others, with Intel for example producing "basic" processors called Celerons and Pentiums, as well as more powerful processors under its "Core" processor family.

The later include the Core 2, Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7, with the last of these being the most powerful. All Intel Core processors feature more than one "core" -- or in other words more than one physical processor -- manufactured as a single component. Intel's "Core 2 Duo" chips, for example, feature two processors core on a single chip, whilst "Core 2 Quad" processors have four processor cores.

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In most situations multi-core processors are far more powerful than traditional single core processors. Quite literally this is because they can do several things at the same time something single core processors can only achieve by constantly switching back and fourth between doing one thing and doing another. In turn this means that multi-core processors can run at lower speeds than single-core processors and yet be far more powerful. All of this hopefully makes it clear why clock speed by itself is no longer a straight-forward indicator of processor power, with the architecture of the processor -- and most notably including its number of cores -- now being at least as significant.

Intel Celeron, Pentium and Core processors are today all to be found at the heart of new desktop and laptop PCs. Intel additionally also manufacture very-high-specification chips named Xeons and Itaniums to drive the most powerful business workstations and servers. If this range of choice all sounds a bit confusing then to be honest it is -- with Intel itself having resorted to a range of processor section wizards in an effort to explain its processor ranges on its own website.

To add further to Intel's abundance of processor choice and complexity, the company also offers a range of low-power processors called Atoms.

These are highly energy efficient, and were primarily first intended to be used in mobile computers including netbooks. However, today the latest dual core Atom processors are increasingly finding their way into highly energy-efficient desktop computers. For many people a computer with the latest 1.

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You can watch me construct a dual core Atom-based computer in the following video: In addition to clock speed and architecture, a processor's cache and front side bus FSB speed also determine a computer's overall power. In brief, cache is a form of very fast memory integrated into the processor chip, and used to store up instructions work for the processor so that it has to slow down as little as possible between tasks.

Cache is measured in megabytes MB , with for example low-end Celeron processors having as little as 0. The simple message is, the more cache the better -- though high levels of cache still come at a very significant price. Front side bus FSB speed is a measure of how fast a microprocessor communicates with the computer's main circuit board or "motherboard" into which it is physically connected. Again, the higher the measure the better for overall performance, with FSB speeds currently ranging from MHz still perfectly sufficient for the vast majority of applications up to Mhz.

NOTE: Whilst the examples in the above section all refer to Intel microprocessors, it should be noted that the PC processor market is dominated by both Intel with about 80 per cent market share and its main rival AMD. AMD's low specification processors are called Semprons, its mid-range chips called Athlons, and its high-end chips called Phenoms and A-Series. RAM -- or "random access memory" -- is the temporary storage space that a computer loads software applications and user data into when it is running.

All current RAM technologies are "volatile", which means that everything held in RAM is lost when a computer's power is removed. To a large extent, the more RAM a computer has the faster and more effectively it will operate. Computers with little RAM have to keep moving data to and from their hard disks in order to keep running. This tends to make them not just slow in general, but more annoyingly intermittently sluggish. Add more, and the PC simply will not recognise it. In practice this means that the vast majority of PCs in use and being sold today cannot benefit from more than 4GB of RAM -- and this includes many PCs running Windows 7 which is very widely sold in its 32 rather than 64 bit format to maximise compatabilty with older software and perhipherals.

Just how much RAM a computer needs depends on the software it is required to run effectively. Most mobile computers usually feature far less RAM, and indeed even desktop computers running smaller operating systems such as some versions of Linux or Windows 98 can run very effectively with as little as MB of RAM in certain situations. A computer's graphics system determines how well it can work with visual output. Graphics systems can either be integrated into a computer's motherboard, or plugged into the motherboard as a separate "video card". Graphics systems integrated into the motherboard also known as "onboard graphics" are now quite powerful, and sufficient for handling the requirements of most software applications aside from games playing, 3D modelling, and some forms of video editing.

Any form of modern computer graphics system can now display high-resolution colour images on a standard-sized display screen ie any monitor up to about 19" in size. What the more sophisticated graphics cards now determine is how well a computer can handle the playback of high definition video, as well as the speed and quality at which 3D scenes including games! Another key feature of separate graphics cards is that most of them now allow more than one display screen to be connected to a computer.

Others also permit the recording of video. In effect, modern graphics cards have become dedicated computers in their own right, with their own processor chips and RAM dedicated to video decoding and 3D rendering. Hardly surprisingly, when it comes to final performance, the more RAM and the faster and more sophisticated the processor available on a graphics card the better. This said, top-end graphics cards can cost up to a few thousand dollars or pounds. As a basic rule, unless a computer is going to be used to handle 3D graphics or to undertake a significant volume of video editing or recording, today there is little point in opting for anything other than onboard graphics not least because separate graphics cards consume quite a lot of electricity and create quite a lot of heat and noise.

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Adding a new graphics card to a computer with onboard graphics is also a very easy upgrade if required in the future. A PC being upgraded from onboard graphics sometimes also requires an upgraded power supply if it is to continue to run in a stable fashion. Hard disk drives are the high capacity storage devices inside a computer from which software and user data are loaded.

Like most other modern storage devices, the capacity of the one or more internal hard disks inside a computer is measured in gigabytes GB , as detailed on the storage page. Today 40GB is an absolute minimum hard drive size for a new computer running Windows 7, with a far larger capacity being recommended in any situation where more than office software is going to be installed.

Where a computer will frequently be used to edit video, a second internal hard disk dedicated only to video storage is highly recommended for stable operation.


Indeed, for professional video editing using a program like Premiere Pro CS5, Adobe now recommend that a PC has at least three internal hard disks one for the operating system and programs, one for video project files, and one for video media. This is also not advice to be lightly ignored if you want your computer to actually work! Most computers are configured to use a proportion of a computer's internal hard disk to store temporary files.

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