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by John Anthony

All the elements that go together to make a computer fall into two categories, hardware or software. This section is about hardware, the physical circuits upon which software runs.

Hardware according to one definition in Webster's dictionary is 'major items of equipment or their components used for a particular purpose'.

When this website went live years ago personal computers were available in desk-top models only. The desktop pancake form is virtually gone replaced by the vertical tower case but is still the term used to describe the modular PC.

Since then laptops, tablets and smartphones were invented and have come into widespread use.

They are all built around a computer core each with a different form factor and specialized input and outputs.

All the hardware components that make it up are put together in a way that they can be accessed for relatively easy installation and removal.
  1. PC Case
  2. Motherboard
  3. Power Supply
  4. Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
  5. Memory
  6. Digital Video Disk drive (DVD)
  7. Display
  8. Keyboard
  9. Mouse
  10. Audio
  11. Cables & Wires

Desk-tops are modular making it easy for do-it-yourselfers to upgrade components like video cards, drives (hard or solid) and system memory (RAM).

The laptop provides the same desk-top function in a very small, compact, portable unit and utilizes the same hardware components except for the PC case and mouse with the keyboard and display being integrated components.

Laptops displays are smaller at 11-15 inches compared to desktop monitors of up to 30 inches.

Laptops typically have an integrated WI-FI adapter for modem or router connection to the Internet.

The battery can be removed without any tools while access to the hard disk and memory modules may require removing a few screws. All of the other hardware components require significant disassembly to access.

The laptop uses a clamshell case construction that folds up when not in use. When open the keyboard is in the half closest to the user and the display in the other half is upright for viewing.

A touch pad and two buttons are located in the lower center area of the keyboard. The touch pad is used to move the cursor around screen by sliding your finger across it. The two buttons replicate the left and right mouse button functions.

A wired or wireless external mouse can be used with the laptop by connecting the mouse or the pod for wireless mouse to any USB port on the laptop.

The perimeter around the keyboard half contains ports used to connect input and output devices. There may be others but the basic ports include:
  • Display port (15 pin D-shell) used to drive an external display if needed.
  • USB ports (the number varies with the manufacturer and model)
  • RJ-45 jack (8-pin) used for wired Ethernet connection.
  • Headphone Out jack
  • Microphone in jack
  • Power In jack used with an AC adaptor providing low voltage power.
  • Speaker
  • Microphone
  • Camera in newer models

The tablet can be thought of as a lower power laptop without the keyboard.

Here are some of the key feature differences.

RAM memory: Laptop 5 - 20 GB, Tablet 1 - 3 GB.

Disk Space: Laptop 320 GB - 1 TB, Tablet 32 GB of flash RAM.

Screens: Laptop 11 - 14 inches, Tablet 7-10 inches.

Battery Life: Laptop 5 - 6 hours, Tablet 10 - 14 hours

Tablet content navigation is done by finger tapping, swiping and pinching the screen, and by voice access which is a natural way to communicate.
For those who do a lot of typing the physical keyboard of a laptop provides more comfort, speed and accuracy.

Tablets offer Wifi and cellular connectivity (in some models) while laptops typically offer Wifi only.

Tablets also have built in GPS while laptops generally do not.

Tablets do have input output ports like found on a Laptop. although some models may have USB port.

Hybrid 2 in 1
This device has the characteristics of a tablet and includes a detachable keyboard or a keyboard that can be folded up and hidden.

Smart Phone
This device began as a simple mobile phone and over a few generations of improvement morphed into a smart phone with a powerful processor core full of many rich features surrounded by specialized input output functions.

It is closest to the tablet in what it does. It's smaller size makes it easy to carry around and use to surf the Internet, use social media (texts, tweets, instagrams etc.), play MP3s, play movies, take pictures and videos and of course make phone calls.

The smartphone world like the PC world divided in to two camps, iPhones from Apple and Android phones from Samsung, HTC, LG and others. iPhones run the Iphone Operating System (IOS). Android is the name of the operating system from Google that runs the Samsungs and other non-Apple phones.

Apple operates today like it did when the Apple computer and the IBM PC were released in the early 1980s.
The Apple operating system was exclusively geared toward it's own Apple hardware and it's I/O structure was held under tight wraps.
Microsoft went a different way and made Windows adaptable to many hardware platforms with an open I/O architecture. This open approach enabled 3rd party developers to build many custom applications for Windows based machines.
Fast forward to today and it is no surprise that 91% of PCs worldwide are Windows based while only 5% are Apple MAC OS based with 4% being other OS like LInux.

The Andriod world of phones offers higher screen resolution, more screen size options, more ruggedness, expandable memory through SD slots, any file type transfer from phone to PC, and a back button as Steve Jobs was insistent on a single button only for iPhones. rule

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