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Computer Zone. (part 4).


You may have heard people using terms like hardware, software, hard drives, floppy disks, and memory when talking about computers. They make it sound like computers have hard parts, soft parts, and a brain! Is that how computers really work? Let's take a closer look and see what's going on.

Hardware is any part of a computer that you can touch or see. That would include things like the keyboard, monitor, and mouse.

Software, on the other hand, is any information or electronic instructions that tell your computer what to do. You can't see or touch software, but your computer will not work without it!

A floppy disk, usually just called a disk, is a thin plate of flexible (floppy) plastic that is coated with a layer of magnetic material. A heavier plastic jacket is placed around it for protection. Disks are used to store various types of computer information. This is a good example of how hardware and software work together. The disk itself is the hardware, but the information it contains is the software.

On the front of a computer you will find slots, called disk drives, where a disk can be inserted. When a disk is in this drive, the computer can use the information that is stored on the disk to help you do tasks like write papers, draw pictures, or add columns of numbers.

Inside the computer is a larger, thicker disc called a hard drive. It is similar to the floppy disk, but this disc is sealed in the computer and never comes out. Because it is larger, it holds much more information than a floppy disk.

Your computer does have a memory. In fact, it has different kinds of memory. But it doesn't use a brain to store information. It uses chips and disks. Basically, your computer has a short-term and a long-term memory. Here's how it works.

Let's say you are typing a paper for English class. As you type, the words stay on the screen (and in the computer's short-term memory). The computer can do this because inside the computer are tiny chips that temporarily hold the information. These chips are called random-access memory, or RAM. If you were to turn off the computer at this point, the RAM chips would lose all the information you just typed. Not a happy thought!

However, if you store this information on a disk, either a floppy disk or the hard drive, it will be permanently saved. Then, even if the computer is turned off, the information will not be lost. You can retrieve it when the computer is turned back on. That is the computer's long-term memory.

So, when you typed the English paper, you used hardware (the keyboard and computer), software (the information used to tell your computer how to work), RAM (short-term memory chips), and the hard drive or a floppy disk (long-term memory). And now you know what's going on!

Because computer information is stored magnetically on disks, they should never be stored near a magnet. The information on the disk can be permanently lost or scrambled by being placed near another magnet. Unfortunately, magnets can appear in surprising places! The following items contain magnets and should never be placed near a disk: telephones, radio or television speakers, desk fans, electric-guitar amplifiers, and photocopiers. Even paper clips that have been in a magnetic paper-clip holder can cause a problem!

Next issue, we'll talk about a piece of computer equipment that contains guns, electron beams, pixels, and dots. Can you guess what it is?
COPYRIGHT 1999 Children's Better Health Institute
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:memory in microcomputers
Publication:U.S. Kids
Date:Jan 1, 1999
Previous Article:What Happens When You YAWN?

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