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Historically, a computer is any device that can store and process data.

Today it usually refers to an electronic device with circuits that allow for data to be manipulated in binary form. So the main components are software (memory and programs to process data) and hardware (devices used for the storing and processing of that data). And, lastly, an array of components for humans to interact with the electronic data 'machine.' Modern personal computers usually contain the following components:

A Motherboard - The backbone of the computer, designed to transfer information and power to and from all of the major components. Also called a "Mainboard" or "mobo". The motherboard contain the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) that allows all the components to communicate with each other. CPU (Central Processing Unit) - The Central Processing Unit that is usually attached directly to the motherboard. It is comprised of a chip with usually dozens of pins which are connected to the motherboard. They are usually obscured by a large heat sink (large metal components which divert heat away from chips, which may or may not have an attached fan, depending on if it is a PC or a Mac). RAM (Random Access Memory) - Usually Dual-Inline Memory Modules (DIMMs), they are plugged directly into the motherboard as well. Some highperformance versions are cased in metal which help cool the chips on them. There are usually 8 chips on a stick of RAM (random access memory), sometimes there is a 9th "parity" chip, which helps check for errors within the memory. ROM (Read Only Memory), usually on a Hard drive - This is usually a large metallic rectangular prism-shaped device about 3.5 inches wide. It stores data onto metal discs within the device and have recently come out with capacities as large as 1 TB (Terabyte, or 1000 Gigabytes, 1,000,000 Megabytes etc). In the 'old days' these were cards, ticker tape, or magnetic discs labeled as A drive or B drive. Now most computers have C drive, which is the hard drive mentioned earlier. A Power Supply - Computers need specific power voltages for each component and always have a power supply which takes power from the wall and outputs power at specific voltages on specific cable formats within the computer. The OS - This is the programmed Operating System that is the 'brain' of the computer. If it is a PC it will be a Microsoft derivative of the common Windows systems. It began its earlier days as DOS (Disk Operating System) which was developed by Bill Gates for IBM. If it is an Apple Mac (Macintosh) computer it will likely be using a Mac OS system developed by Apple Inc., which first developed the graphical user interface-based operating systems that we all use today. The other alternative operating systems include UNIX, and some others. A case to hold all the components, usually in a tower.

Human Interface Devices (HID) - These are the components that allow a human being to interact with the computer and access and/or process data. These can include a keyboard, mouse, monitor (digital video screen, usually now an LED monitor), video cam, microphone, headphones/speakers, graphics tablet, or other devices.