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Lecture 1: Introduction to Computers

By: E. A. Kalinga, ECSE, CoET, UDSM


To know some basic knowledge of computer architecture, this will effectively help to write programs on the computer

Areas to be Covered

1. The meaning of a Computers

2. Basic Computer Architecture

Introduction to Computers

What is a Computer? A computer is an automatic, digital and electronic machine that handles information. It is a machine that:

accepts data at its inputs,

processes the data according to the predetermined rules

supplies the results (output) in the form of data or actions.

The computer is a combination of both hardware and software components.

hardware are physical components of the computer They are tangible parts that can be seen and touched. Examples are: all electronic circuits, cables, cards, memory, disks, CPU etc.

Introduction to Computers Cont…


describes the intangible elements of a computer. includes programs recorded on physical media such as floppy disks, hard disks etc. Software components are: Programs, Operating systems, Editors, Low-level languages, High-level languages etc.

Software can be classified broadly into two categories:

System Software: is a set of programs that help to operate the computer system in an organized manner. Example is operating system

Application Software: is a user written program for executing a certain specific job e.g. financial accounting

Data Vs Information


are facts that are gathered and entered into a computer.


These data are further being processed to produce information. Information is a meaningful data, i.e. what we get after processing.

Data Processing

Processing can mean for-example, some kind of calculations, sorting some information like listing names of students in alphabetical order, etc.

At the end we expect the computer to output the processed information to the user in an accurate and timely manner. By a user it means a person who is making use of the results from the computer.

Computers use a set of instructions to perform a certain task. Instructions can be broadly grouped into four basic classes:

Arithmetic and logic instructions

Comparison instructions

Data movement instructions

Input and output instructions

Basic Computer Architecture

The computer has basically two major functional components:

1. The Central Processing Unit (CPU) and

2. The Memory

Attached to it is the part called Input/Output (I/O) Devices

Functional Components of a Computer

Central Processing Unit (CPU) Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU) Input Devices Control Unit Output Devices (I/O)
Central Processing Unit
Logic Unit
Input Devices
Control Unit
Output Devices
Main Memory (M)

Functional Components of a Computer

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

CPU is the part of the computer that contains the electronic circuitry that actually processes the data.

CPU handles mathematical operations, variety of comparisons and controls input and/or output actions.

CPU has two distinct parts:

Arithmetic and Logic Unit (ALU): This is the portion of CPU that carries out mathematical operations, logic operation and comparisons e.g. Addition, Subtraction, AND, OR, NOR etc.

Control Unit (CU): Controls and coordinates the activities of all other units of a computer system.


Memory is a place where information (instructions and data) is stored.

Information include: Programs which tells the computer what to do, Data to be processed and Results of computations.

Memory is a collection of storage units called a byte. A byte is capable of storing one character of information. A byte is composed of eight connected bits.

A bit is a least storage element (fundamental unit) and consists of an electronic circuit element that can be either ON (representing a one) or OFF (representing a zero). off.

Memory Cont…

In order for a computer to read and write the contents in the byte of memory, it needs to specify which byte to be referenced.

Bytes are located by their memory addresses as shown in figure and each memory address for a byte is unique.

When data is to be input into the computer, it must be placed into a memory location.

When data is to be displayed on the screen from the computer it is basically coming from the memory location.

Main/Primary Memory

coming from the memory location. Main/Primary Memory • There are two types of memories: 1. Main

There are two types of memories:

1. Main memory or primary memory

They are internal fast memories.

Data that are being processed are held in primary memory, which is capable of sending and receiving the data at high speed.

The main memory is directly accessible by the CPU and is volatile in nature (i.e. the contents of the main memory are lost as soon as the power is switched off).

External/Secondary Memory

2. External memory or secondary memory

They are slow memories.

It is a place where by large amount (quantities) of information are stored.

Information stored can be changed, erased or modified if desired.

This form of storage stores data permanently in the given media like: floppy diskettes, hard disks, magnetic tapes, compact disks (CD) etc.

external memory is non-volatile (i.e. the contents of memory are kept even if the power is switched off) and

it is not directly accessible to the CPU.

Input/Output devices

Input Devices

These are devices attached to the computer.

provide the means of transferring instructions and data into the computer system.

Examples are: keyboard, mouse, optical scanners, magnetic tapes, magnetic disks etc

They are in the group of Input/Output (I/O) Devices

Output Devices

They are used to give out or display information transmitted from computer

Examples are: Monitors, printers, plotters etc

They are in the group of Input/Output (I/O) Devices

Note: external memories are also input/output devices, which are used as both input and output. These are: hard disks, diskettes, CD-ROMs, magnetic tapes etc.

A Typical Computer System

A Typical Computer System The Motherboard (top view) 8

The Motherboard (top view)

A Typical Computer System The Motherboard (top view) 8

Review Questions

What is data? What is the output of data processing system?

Differentiate between data and information

Discuss the basic functional components of a computer

What is the function of memory?

What is a CPU? What are the sub-units that make up the CPU? Explain functions of each of these units.

What are two types of memory available to the computer?

State and discuss categories of computer software.

Distinguish between main memory and external memory