Computer hardware

Hardware [/ hɑ ː d ˌ wɛə / or / ˌ hɑɹd wɛɚ / (AE )] ( abbreviation: HW ) is the generic term for the mechanical and electronic equipment of a system, such as a computer system. He must not only apply to systems with a processor. It can also be purely electro-mechanical devices such as a staircase lighting machine. Originally the English hardware is about the same meaning as " Hardware " and is still used today in the English-speaking world in this sense - not just for computer hardware.

Demarcation hardware and software

Very simple systems can be implemented directly in hardware immutable. The function of these systems is then fixed by the structure of the hardware. But more complex hardware systems usually contain programmable elements, such as processors. These in their structure, also defined components execute a sequence of instructions that can be manipulated. Addition, there are components that can be defined in their structure (see PLD). Thus, the function of the whole system can be easily adapted. The configuration and instruction data are generally referred to as software - with less complex devices where only simple structures and processes are set, it is usually called firmware. The hardware, however, include modules ( components: processor, memory, etc.) and peripherals. Put simply heard anything that can be touched, to the hardware. Computer hardware is usable only with appropriate software.

Software refers to the contrary, programs and data that can not be touched. The media on which the Software is contained, eg floppy disk, CD / DVD / BR D / HD- DVD, RAM, flash memory, hard disk, etc., on the other hand hardware.

One possible implementation or division of the hardware in 1945 presented Von Neumann architecture. It distinguishes between abstract control unit, arithmetic logic unit ( "ALU " ), storage plant and Eingabe-/Ausgabewerk ( peripheral). Nowadays, such a division for understanding the structure of a computer still useful and necessary, despite the fact that in modern processors, many functions are integrated in a hardware chip, for instance:

  • Control unit to the ALU and instruction encoding several times for parallel processing;
  • Control unit MMU for memory management;
  • The cache as part of the storage plant,
  • The controller for a bus system, the internal and external components to each other.

In so-called embedded processors for eg PDA can be found in the same housing still a Ein-/Ausgabewerk in the form of serial interfaces ( eg USB), digital I / O (Input / Ouput ), eg for lights and analog I / O for example, a touch screen.

For computer hardware include:

  • PC components:
  • Power supply, case, fan
  • The basic components of computer architecture such as the board, which is called in common parlance motherboard or mainboard. There is a chipset for IO; a processor and memory modules.
  • Memory works: Memory ( RAM)
  • Storage devices / drives ( hard drive, flash memory, CD -ROM drive, DVD drive, Zip drive, Jaz drive, ...)
  • Expansion card (video card, sound card, PhysX card, network card, TV card, ISDN card, USB card, ... )
  • Output devices ( printers, monitors, projectors, speakers, ... )
  • Input devices ( keyboard, mouse, joystick, ...)
  • Reading devices (different types of scanners, microphones, card readers, ...)

All these peripherals and components of a computer are mostly built with logic circuits.

The hardware of a computer is controlled and managed by the firmware (eg BIOS or EFI) and the software ( uA Operating System and related drivers ).

Often hardware is provided with an FCC number that allows an unambiguous identification of the manufacturer.

Originally, the term firmware is in the field of programmable logic. In the 1980s, logical functions, such as address decoding with individually available components were implemented hardwired. ( AND gates, OR gates, inverters, flip- flops, etc. ) With the increasing complexity programmable devices have been used, for example as PLDs. This has the advantage of being able to respond flexibly to new-found errors by reprogramming instead of having to desolder parts. Despite the programming of the hardware with software similar high-level languages ​​(eg, Abel, VHDL, etc. ) is referred to as firmware, which one assigns most of the hardware or microelectronics.