KS3 Computing/How a computer works

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Key components

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The key components of a computer can be categorized into the following:

  • Input device

An input device allows a user to 'input' data into a computer.
Examples are:

    keyboard, mouse, scanner, webcam

Find out more about input devices here.

  • Output device

A user receives information from the computer via an output device.
Examples of output devices include:

     printer, speaker

Find out more about output devices here.

  • Processor

The part of the computer that processes the data input as per the instruction given.
Find out more about processors here.

  • Memory

This is where the computer keeps data input and calculations temporarily. This is stored only until the computer is switched off, when it is then lost.
Find out more about memory here.

  • Storage

This is where the computer stores applications and files in the longer term.
Find out more about processors here.


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We call communications between computers 'networking'. Learn all about computer networks and connectivity here.

Suggestions for the classroom

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It's a good idea to explain how the different components work by relating it to something familiar to the students.

One example is the human body - you might say the computer's processor (CPU) is like the human brain, the power supply is like the human heart, the RAM is like human short term memory, the hard drive like our long term memory, etc. It makes it easier for students to remember, and lots of fun activities you can use to help students remember the different components.


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Video discussing the key components inside a computer
https://www.youtube.com/v/4eNTlwnnhss?version=3&autoplay=1&fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0 An implementation of the Little Man Computer http://www.peterhigginson.co.uk/LMC/