PC Parts and Supercomputers

In this blog post, I’m going to try to describe to my computer not-so-literate readers some of the stuff that’s actually inside the thing they are using to read this!

To make it simple, I’ll list the name of the part and then talk about it below it. Keep in mind, I’m trying to give a very general overview of everything so the big picture of each part is understood.

So, without further adieu, let’s begin!

Motherboard

The board to connect them all!

Or at least connect everything in your computer together. =P

The typical motherboard will have slots for everything that is needed to run a PC. Such as:
– Ram Slots
– Processor Bay
– A place to connect SATA cables for your hard drive
– Cables to plug in to the power supply
– Graphics Card Slot
– Sound Card Slot
– Other slots for input devices on case (Ex. USB ports)

The mother board is arguably the most critical part to consider when constructing a new computer, as the limitations for upgrades placed on your PC will be decided by your motherboard’s specifications.

Moreover, upgrading in general is a hassle if you have an outdated motherboard. For instance, if you have an older model, and you wish to upgrade your old DDR2 RAM to the new DDR3 RAM, which I will talk a little about later, would be impossible without physically changing the board. Also, it is critical to note that your motherboard is compatible with the installed BIOS, as the wrong one will make the entire system fail to boot on load.

Processor

The processor, probably the most well-known of all computer parts secondary only to the motherboard, is indeed a critical component to consider when assessing the capabilities of any computer. Old processors used to be only single core, with low clock speed for instance 1.2 GHz, which I will speak more of later, but today’s processors consist of various core amounts, currently 1-6 cores, and much higher speeds such as 3.2 GHz. The processor is used mainly for mathematical computations that drive every program, so without the processor, you’re not going anywhere.

Ram

When people complain about how slow their computer is, usually RAM, Random Access Memory, is the biggest factor affecting speed. All programs need to use it “as it is used by the system to store data for processing by a computer’s central processing unit” (DDR Memory Upgrades). This is even more so if you tend on using power hungry applications such as games, CAD software, or other high level design programs. I should probably make the point now that all types of RAM are used for transferring data and the amount of data that can be transferred at once is limited to the RAM’s bandwidth.

When ram came out around 1950, it was first called DDR (Double Data rate) ram. Today, the ram that can be found in most computers is DDR2 (Double Data Rate synchronous dynamic) ram. A newer version, DDR3 SDRAM, is also available today; however, this RAM is typically more expensive as it does provide higher performance levels for your PC. Now you’re really probably wondering, if you don’t know already, what determines the speed of RAM. This is relatively simple as you would mainly have to identify clock speed. For lack of better words, I have quoted the following paragraph from a RAM article on Techwallz.com:

“Another important thing that you must know about random access memory is Clock Speed. Clock speed is how fast a computer completes basic operations and Clock Speed is measured in hertz. A higher clock speed is naturally better and it increase your PC speed. A megahertz refers to one-million cycles per seconds where a gigahertz is one-billion cycles per second. So a computer running at 900Mhz is running 900,000,000 cycles per second. While a 2.99Ghz computer is running 2,900,000,000.”

Now if you’re wondering how to upgrade you’re RAM for faster performance speed, Say from DDR2 to DDR3. HOLD ON! Before you buy it, you’re going to have to check your motherboard specifications (found within its instruction manual) to see if the type of RAM you want to buy is compatible with it. Failure to do so will only waste your time and money.

Hard Drive

Next, let’s look at something that should be familiar to most people: the Hard Drive. Since the development of the first hard drive, storage capacity and speed has been increased by leaps and bounds. I’m sure many of us born in the 1990’s or later remember at one point in their lives where computers only had an extremely small memory of a gigabyte or less (which at the time, was AWESOME). Recently, it would not be hard to find a terabyte or two of data capacity on a desktop (or any computer for that matter) giving people the ability to store all their (presumably legal) downloads and other files.

So, how does a hard drive store information? Well, to put it simply, a Hard Drive magnetically stores information on the hard disk (typically made of aluminum) allowing it to store an immense amount of information in a comparably limited space. This is similar to how data is stored on tape except that the speed of accessing that data is increased immensely in Hard Drives, as the disk in the hard drive itself spins at rates around 170mph!

Graphics Card/Video Card

Graphics cards, some integrated some not, are what allow you to see things on the screen that you are using right now!

Well…that’s great, right? But how does it work?

Since you asked nicely, “the CPU, working in conjunction with software applications, sends information about the image to the graphics card. The graphics card decides how to use the pixels on the screen to create the image. It then sends that information to the monitor through a cable. (How Stuff Works)“

Some people may not care about this part of their computer too much, as not everybody is a hard-core gamer or designer constantly stressing their PC’s to the limit. There are, however, a multitude of graphics cards that cater to all various sorts of needs. It shouldn’t be surprising to think that a researcher creating a vast statistics-heavy model, of a molecule perhaps, would want a chip that focused more on computational power of the GPU, in contrast to a gamer who only cares about the best quality and the best frame rate for their games.

Power Supply

The power supply is arguably the most important part of the computer, because without it, or a sufficient power supply, your computer will not be able to run. Power supplies come in many different wattage and it is critical that you get a large enough power supply to run all of the hardware inside your computer. Too large a power supply, however, can lead to wasted energy and not to mention a higher electric bill.

Supercomputer

I hope I have informed you well enough concerning the parts that are residing in your computer. What I want you to do now is just imagine a really really really big computer. REALLY BIG. Imagine the size of an entire football field filled with computer servers big. That, my reader, is what you should imagine when you think of a SUPERCOMPUTER.

The term supercomputer is widely known and used; however, it seems that little else about them is common knowledge. So, what is a supercomputer? Basically, it a high performance computing machine designed for one thing: To achieve unbelievable computing speeds. How do they do it? With lots and lots and lots of processors of course! They might not have some of things inside them like a normal desktop computer, like sound cards, but that’s because they don’t exactly need them.  Supercomputers have various uses, like performing complex scientific calculations, simulations like predicting the weather (apparently they still haven’t figured out a really accurate algorithm yet), rendering images, figuring out protein configurations, and other things that your laptop wouldn’t want to handle. They are also built sometimes not for research but for the pure purpose of competition among countries! Crazy isn’t it? Especially when you consider that the costs for building and maintain one are astronomical!

Thanks to the development of these computers, though, we are now able to enjoy a much higher level of technology, and improved standard of living. We may get some really weird weather forecasts sometimes, but at least we have them!

Thanks for reading! Leave a comment below if you wish!

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