The physical parts of computing devices – those that you can actually touch – are referred to as hardware. In this chapter, we will take a look at this component of information systems, learn a little bit about how it works, and discuss some of the current trends surrounding it.

As stated above, computer hardware encompasses digital devices that you can physically touch. This includes devices such as the following: 

• Desktop computers
• Laptop computers
• Mobile phones
• Tablet computers
• e-Readers
• Storage devices, such as flash drives
• Input devices, such as keyboards, mice, and scanners
• Output devices such as printers and speakers.

Besides these more traditional computer hardware devices, many items that were once not considered digital devices are now becoming computerized themselves. Digital technologies are now being integrated into many everyday objects, so the days of a device being labeled categorically as computer hardware may be ending. Examples of these types of digital devices include automobiles, refrigerators, and even soft drink dispensers.

The speed of a computer is determined by many elements, some related to hardware and some related to software. In hardware, speed is improved by giving the electrons shorter distances to traverse to complete a circuit. Since the first CPU was created in the early 1970s, engineers have constantly worked to figure out how to shrink these circuits and put more and more circuits onto the same chip. And this work has paid off – the speed of computing devices has been continuously improving ever since.

The hardware components that contribute to the speed of a personal computer are the CPU, the motherboard, RAM, and the hard disk. In most cases, these items can be replaced with newer, faster components. In the case of RAM, simply adding more RAM can also speed up the computer. The table below shows how each of these contributes to the speed of a computer.


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