They Are In Everything
The modern is run on computers. While most people may be aware of a home computer, and some idea that cars and a few other things; most people don’t realize that almost anything that runs on electricity or batteries probably has a computer of some kind embedded in it. It’s easy to rely on computers…until they don’t work right. All of a sudden we have a new-found appreciation for them and it’s then that we wonder how do computers work.
Let’s start with your home computer as knowing how that works will help you understand other types of computers. When people talk about their personal computer, they are referring to a machine that is made up of several computer parts and has an operating system that allows a human to make the computer do what they want it to do.
On the surface, your personal computer operates in the same fashion as those found in other devices. It really comes down to the purpose each specific computer is going to be used for. In other words, all computers are basically the same thing but the device they are being used in determines which functions the computers need.
The PC, as one example, is a machine that is built around a microprocessor. This processor tells each component what to do based on the instructions you give it. These instructions can vary from something as simple as clicking the mouse, to something as complicated as programming. So, the microprocessor is the primary answer to the question of how do computers work.
Where a computer professional (or a knowledgeable amateur) will be able to build their own computer from all of the various parts, the vast majority of us want to take it out of the box and plug it in. If everything goes well, then we don’t have any real reason (other than curiosity) to wonder how they operate. That being said, having some idea can help you to troubleshoot problems if any should come up.
Your first hint as to how they work can be noticed when you first take it out of the box. You will have the main unit that you plug your keyboard and monitor into, the software, and the items that allow you to input information. The main unit contains all of the « guts » and this is where the virtual magic takes place.
Here’s a basic rundown of what happens. You input information (either through the keyboard or the mouse) and that sends a signal to the processor. The processor determines what your input is; such as a left-click on the mouse, pressed the shift key, typed in a number, opened a menu, or anything else. It then has to figure this out in the proper context (entering a website address in a text document is not the same as entering it to visit a website). Once it does it sends the commands to the proper parts of the computer. Those parts do their thing and relay their signal back to the processor. The processor then figures out what to do with that information and sends the information to your computer monitor. All of this takes place in milliseconds, making it appear as though it is in real time. This is a somewhat simplified answer to how do computers work, but it’s a good start.