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How to introduce kids to computer hardware

By Dhrubaa Ghosh,

Kids are now required to use computers every day. Demystify the machine to them.

Keyboards are hardware pieces that provide data and control signals to a computer.

Kids know what a computer is. They grow up with desktops, laptops, smart phones, tablets, perhaps even gaming consoles. Overexposure means they often use hardware unthinkingly in childhood. Awaken the curiosity in them by explaining how a computer (laptop or desktop) works, and encourage them to explore further.  

What is hardware? 
A computer system requires both hardware and software. Hardware is the computer’s physical parts. Software is the programs, or instructions, that tell the hardware what to do. Basic hardware is same across all computers, though their quality varies. That’s why a computer works faster or slower, has better picture or sound. But in terms of basic units, they all have the hardware we will mention below.  

What makes up hardware?  
A computer’s hardware may be divided into 3 broad groups: input, processing and output. We feed commands into the computer using input, we tell the machine what we want it to do. This gets processed inside. Then we get the results via the output.  

Input Devices  
Keyboards, mouse, scanners, cameras, joysticks, and microphones are hardware pieces that provide data and control signals to a computer. 

Keyboard: This came even before computers, because typewriters had them. Computers have keyboards as well, but with more buttons and features. Keyboards enable people to feed their queries and commands. This is what you need to write anything you want to for a computer. 

Joystick: A joystick makes computer games a lot more fun. Gaming computers have them.   

Microphone: A microphone allows you to speak to the computer. It can be a built-in microphone, attached with a headset, or a separate mike that you connect to the machine.  

Web Camera: A web camera, like the microphone, may be built-in or separate hardware. It records your photos and live videos.   

Processing Devices  
These are hardware pieces used for the processing of information within the computer system. Here are some examples of processing devices. 

CPU: The microprocessor is the computer’s brain. It is also called the CPU, i.e. central processing unit. The microprocessor handles all the information that goes into and comes out of the computer.  

GPU: The graphics processing unit is responsible for all the images and video you see. It may be integrated within the CPU or a separate piece of hardware.  

Memory: The memory is hardware that holds programs and data while the microprocessor uses it. 

Storage: The programs and data are kept permanently on hardware called storage devices. Computers store data on hard or solid state drives, called HDD or SSD.  

The processing unit generates a lot of heat while it works, so it also has a fan.  

Output Devices  
The parts of a computer show us the results of processing are called output devices. Here is a low-down on these devices. 

Monitor: A monitor is the screen where you see everything. It shows whatever you type on the keyboard or point with the mouse. It’s where you get to watch movies, videos and games.  

Printer: Not all homes may have a printer, but this hardware lets you print whatever you want on paper.   

Speakers: Speakers, integrated or separately connected, are the output devices that produce all the sounds from the computer.  

Headphone: If you don’t want to play it out loud, you can also listen to music, movies or any sound from a computer with the help of headphones without disturbing others. 

This apart, there are hardware related to power supply, such as battery and charger, and communication hardware devices like the modem, that connect you to the internet.   

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