Lesson 2: Hardware Perspective What is computer hardware? One of the great ironies of the modern computer is that, at the hardware level, a computer is nothing more than a machine that can mimic binary arithmetic. In this sense, it doesn't seem like a computer could be very useful, does it? And, it's true, for many years it was believed that most people would have little use for a computer. However, there are two key aspects to this binary arithmetic machine that make it incredibly useful to humans. First, while, in one sense, all computers really do is binary arithmetic, that does not take away from the fact that they do this arithmetic at incredible speeds. In fact, todays socalled supercomputers can do an amount of arithmetic in one second that would take any human being working with a calculator hundreds of millions of years to do! Secondly, one of the most surprising aspects of the last few decades in the evolution of computers is the discovery of just how much of human culture can be represented as binary numbers and as arithmetic operations upon binary numbers. This is the software dimension of computing. Software encodes and decodes to and from the binary arithmetic that the computer fundamentally performs Let's first consider today's computers from a hardware perspective...




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