Hardware and Software Overview
Your desk probably contains a jumble of equipment commonly known as a computer. But what is all that stuff? What does a computer
do? Unlike many other tools or appliances that have limited purposes, a computer can do any number of things:
Browse the Internet
Send e-mail messages to people around the world
Help you balance your budget
…and that’s just the beginning of what you can do with a computer!
Two basic components make up a computer:
simply can’t have one without the other.
All computer parts that you can physically see or touch are called
. Hardware includes the computer’s monitor, case, keyboard,
mouse, and printer.
Computer programs that tell hardware how to operate are called
Software is divided into two major categories:
An operating system is a software program that loads automatically and controls just about everything on your computer. There
are a number of operating systems out there, including MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows 8.1 and Linux.
An application program helps you accomplish a certain task, such as writing a letter, browsing the Internet, or playing a game.
Examples include word-processing programs, spreadsheets, databases, and games.
You may have used software such as Microsoft Excel or Corel WordPerfect in the past. So breathe a giant sigh of relief—you don’t
have to know how to program a computer to use one. A computer programmer has already done the work for you by writing the
program (software). All you have to do is tell the software what you’re trying to do, and the software then directs the work of the
The image on the right shows an example of a typical computer setup and its components, but don’t worry if your setup is different.
More than likely, you have all the parts that you need, and those parts are properly connected. In any case, the table on the following
page provides more details about each individual component.
IT, short for
, is the broad subject related to computers and managing and processing information, especially
within large organizations. Many large companies have departments full of computer experts called