Английский язык. Основы компьютерной грамотности 142

is made up of random access memory (RAM) and read-only memory (ROM). Because RAM is only temporary storage, all microcomputers require some instructions to get started after they are turned on, and these are contained in ROM. A micro­computer includes both an MPU and internal memory.

The portion of the system software that is in ROM brings into RAM the additional instructions required to operate the micro­computer. Typically these instructions are stored on a magnetic disk; hence, they are called a disk operating system, or DOS. This start-up process is called bootstrapping*. ROM also con­tains other programs that help to make personal computers easy to use, such as a programming language. Computer games are also stored in ROMcartridges.

In addition to the MPU, RAM, ROM, and associated con­trol circuits, other components, called peripheral devices, are needed to make a complete microcomputer system. The prin­cipal peripheral units are: input devices, output devices, mass storage units, and communication components. Like a DOS, the programs that control the flow of data between a microcom­puter and its peripheral devices are a part of systems software.

The most common input device used with personal comput­ers is the keyboard. Most personal computer keyboards have extra keys that perform special functions and that can be used to control the movement of a cursor on a screen. A leverlike** device, called a joystick, is also used as an input device, com­monly for playing video games.

2. The CRT (cathode-ray tube) screen used with personal computers is called a monitor. Keyboards and monitors may be part of a single unit that also contains the microcomputer and the disc drives, or they may be separate units. Besides the mon­itor, the most common input units are dot-matrix and letter-quality printers. Dot-matrix printers are suitable for most mi­crocomputer applications. Letter-quality printers are usually used for high-quality office correspondence. Both types of print­ers are considered to be low-speed character printers.

Mass storage units are available over a range of capacities and access times. Floppy disks, or diskettes, are the most common mass storage media. They store patterns of bits on magnetically coated, flexible plastic platters. A floppy disk platter is sealed permanently in a paper jacket with a small window for reading

143 Unit 19. Personal Computers

and writing. Hard disk storage systems are also available. They may be fixed or removable. Some mass storage units contain both floppy and hard disk devices.

Low-cost modulator-demodulator devices, called modems, that allow microcomputer systems to communicate over tele­phone lines have become increasingly popular. Modems permit networks of personal computer owners to exchange information or to access large data banks. These data banks may be dedi­cated to special applications, such as law or medicine, or they may provide a variety of consumer services.


The personal computer can serve as a work station for the individual today. Moreover, as it has become financially feasi­ble to provide a computer for the individual worker, so also tech­nical developments have made the interface between man and machine increasingly "friendly", so that a wide array of com­puter functions are now accessible to people with no technical background.

A personal computer is a small computer based on a micro­processor; it is a microcomputer. Not all computers, however, are personal computers. A microcomputer can be dedicated to a single task such as controlling a machine tool or metering the injection of fuel into an automobile engine; it can be a word processor, a video game or a "pocket computer" that is not quite a computer. A personal computer is something different: a stand­alone computer that puts a wide array of capabilities at the dis­posal of an individual.

The first generation of true personal computers, which came on the market between 1977 and 1981, had eight-bit micropro­cessors; later introduced systems had 16-bits ones. Now 32-bit microprocessor chips are available, and soon they will be includ­ed in complete computer systems.

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