If you were born in the last few decades, it’s probably impossible for you to imagine life without the computer. The computer is just one of many electronic devices that make modern life possible.
What Are Electronic Devices?
Many of the devices people commonly use today are electronic devices. Electronic devices use electric current to encode, analyze, or transmit information. In addition to computers, they include mobile phones, TV remotes, DVD and CD players, and digital cameras, to name just a few.
Q: Can you think of other electronic devices that you use?
A: Other examples include game systems and MP3 players.
Focus on the Computer
Let’s take a close look at the computer as an example of an electronic device. A computer contains integrated circuits, or microchips, that consist of millions of tiny electronic components. Information is encoded in digital electronic signals. Rapid pulses of voltage switch electric current on and off, producing long strings of 1’s (current on) and 0’s (current off). The 1’s and 0’s are the “letters” of the code, and a huge number of them are needed. One digit (either 0 or 1) is called a bit, which stands for “binary digit.” Each group of eight digits is called a byte, and a billion bytes is called a gigabyte. Because a computer’s circuits are so tiny and close together, the computer can be very fast and capable of many complex tasks while remaining small.
The parts of a computer that transmit, process, or store digital signals are pictured and described in the Figure below. They include the CPU, hard drive, ROM, and RAM. The motherboard ties all these parts of the computer together.
- The CPU, or central processing unit, carries out program instructions.
- The hard drive is a magnetic disc that provides long-term storage for programs and data.
- ROM (read-only memory) is a microchip that provides permanent storage. It stores important information such as start-up instructions. This memory remains even after the computer is turned off.
- RAM (random-access memory) is a microchip that temporarily stores programs and data that are currently being used. Anything stored in RAM is lost when the computer is turned off.
- The motherboard is connected to the CPU, hard drive, ROM, and RAM. It allows all these parts of the computer to receive power and communicate with one another.
Q: Which part(s) of a computer are you using when you type a school report?
A: You are using the RAM to store the word processing program and your document as you type it. You are using the CPU to carry out instructions in the word processing program, and you are probably using the hard drive to save your document.
- Electronic devices—such as computers, mobile phones, remotes, and cameras—use electric current to encode, analyze, or transmit information.
- A computer contains millions of tiny electronic components. Parts of a computer that transmit, process, or store information include the CPU, hard drive, ROM, and RAM. The motherboard ties all these parts together.
- What is an electronic device?
- Give three examples of electronic devices.
- Which part of a computer allows the CPU and RAM to communicate?