Regimental Division,
Office Chief of Signal

United States Army Signal Center, Fort Gordon, GA
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Computer image Some Signal soldiers work on computers as part of their Army jobs. They also set up the networks and switches that computers need to "talk" to each other.

How computers work

A computer is a machine that can do a series of mathematical or logical tasks. It differs from a calculator, which can do those things too, because a computer can store a program in its memory so it can repeat is operations, make logical decisions, and store and get data without a human telling it to do so.

Computers come in two forms: analog and digital. Analog computers give you data as physical, measurable quantities. Car speedometers and electrical watt-hour meters contain analog computers.

Digital computers store information that is much more complex. Your PC at home is a digital computer. PCs, or personal computers, store information on a microprocessor.

Most PC systems have a monitor, keyboard, mouse, CPU (which contains the memory and logic workings, and a storage device), and often a modem and CD-ROM.

A microprocessor is a circuit that contains the arithmetic, logic and control circuits the computer needs to interpret and carry out instructions contained in a computer program. The microprocessor is combined with other microprocessors on a semiconductor base to form a computer chip. Then the microprocessor becomes the heart of your PC, also called a microcomputer.

Calculators, digital watches and electronic games also contain microprocessors. Your mom’s kitchen appliances or your house’s alarm system may also have microprocessors.

Computers become even more powerful when they are connected through a network. Two or more computers are linked to exchange messages or share information or system resources. There are two types of networks: a local-area network and a wide-area network. A local-area network connects PCs and computer workstations (called nodes) over dedicated, private communications links. A wide-area network connects many nodes over long-distance communications links, such as telephone lines.

The Internet is a wide-area network. It connects millions of people through their computers throughout the world.

Computer monitor
Click above to see a bigger picture of a computer.

Inside computer
Click above to see the inside of a CPU, or Computer Processing Unit.

Microprocessor
Click above to see a microprocessor.

Computer chips close up
Click above to see computer chips close up.


Last modified on:
April 04, 2012

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