edtech for edleaders: Computer Systems

Computers are systems in the true sense of the word. For several decades, “computer” meant a box that rested on a desk; users controlled software that was installed on a disk inside that box and they created information by means of a keyboard and a mouse that were plugged into the box. The user saw output on a video monitor and sent output to a printer; those peripherals were also attached to the box. A surprisingly small computer chip was inside the box and microscopic circuits on that chips is where information was processed. That processor, along with random access memory (RAM), disk drives that stored information, and all of the input and output peripherals were all attached to a circuit board (called the motherboard). The peripherals are largely what give computer systems their capacity to facilitate teaching and learning. They have expanded in recent years and now include printers, 3D printers, network cards, video cards, sound cards, and all other input and output devices (of course with the increasing use of networks many input and output devices have been replaced with files transferred to and from other computers via networks). The various hardware and software components installed on a computer affect what can be done with the system and each component affects the operation of the others. Together they create a system; the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.