Do you have an idea of what a computer organization is? Computer organization refers to the placement and handling of data in the computer’s memory and registers. During computer organization, three central components need to be considered: microarchitecture, instruction set architecture, and system design choices. You can read more about Computer organization in this post.
Why Learn Computer Organization?
Many people have heard of computer organization but do not fully understand what it is or why they should care. While it might seem like something only an engineer needs to learn, computer organization is essential knowledge for any programmer, system admin, or business owner.
You probably already use computers every day; why not take a few minutes and brush up on your understanding of how they work?
Even if you don’t consider yourself a tech pro, learning about computer organization could help you make smarter decisions about storing data and protecting yourself from cyber threats.
Many business owners don’t realize that protecting their data can save them money.
What Is Computer Organization?
Computer organization refers to all the different components inside a computer system, including hardware and software. These components interact in specific ways to execute complex tasks at lightning speed.
Each component has its role in ensuring that everything runs smoothly—from reading instructions from memory and executing those instructions to interacting with input devices such as keyboards and mice.
To better understand computer organization, let’s look at three key components: processors, memory, and storage.
A processor (also called a CPU) is one of the essential parts of a computer system because it controls just about everything else. When you run programs on your PC or mobile device, your processor does most of the heavy lifting.
It accepts instructions from memory and executes them by manipulating bits (tiny units used to represent information).
All information stored within a computer must be kept somewhere before processing by a processor. That somewhere is known as memory.
We have two main types of memory: primary and secondary. Primary memory holds data temporarily, while secondary memory stores data permanently.
Data isn’t helpful unless it can be retrieved later, which is where storage comes into play. We have two types of storage: primary and secondary.
Primary storage holds information temporarily, while secondary storage stores information permanently until it’s deleted or overwritten by new files (such as photos or documents). It’s also possible to copy files between these two types of storage when necessary.
The Three Major Skill Areas in Computer Organization
Computer organization has three major skill areas: processor architecture, memory management, and input/output (I/O). The most common type of computer organization study focuses on studying all three of these at once. For example, an introductory college course might cover instruction set design and assembly language programming.
A professional might take a class in operating systems and how they manage system resources. These are great topics for beginners looking to learn more about each area individually.
Unfortunately, it’s not usually possible or necessary for any student to study all three at once as a comprehensive overview. As you get into more advanced topics, each area becomes increasingly complex by itself; imagine trying to learn all three areas at once!
Formal Languages and Automata
Formal languages are languages that a series of rules have defined. These rules describe which set of symbols can be assembled into strings and, just as importantly, which sets of strings are considered valid sentences in that language.
Automata are machines that use formal languages for their internal operations. A computer is an automaton whose parts move based on instructions encoded as a series of 1s and 0s.
It processes data according to stringent guidelines defined in assembly language (another type of formal language). Learning about how computers and computing devices work under the hood gives students insights into how software engineers design programs (like Microsoft Word) and what makes them work.
Every time you create something using binary code or assembly language, you create an instruction set for your computer to follow. If you don’t follow those instructions perfectly, your program won’t run correctly, which is why bugs happen!
Finite State Machines
A state machine is a system that might be in one of a finite number of states. If a system can only be in one of two states, it’s called a 2-state machine. A 3-state machine can be in any one of three states, and so on.
In computer science, finite state machines are often used as an organizational structure for parts of larger systems. For example, a program could have manual, automatic, or interactive modes. While running in manual mode, you could enter commands using your keyboard; while running in automatic mode, you’d use some other input device (like a mouse).
While running interactively, you’d use both devices at once. Each mode would be considered a different state of your program’s finite state machine. You could design each part of your program (each module) to know how to handle itself when running automatically versus manually versus interactively.
Input / Output Devices
The essential components of a computer are its input and output devices. Input devices allow users to provide information and instructions for a computer to process, while output devices display processed data.
These terms typically refer to external hardware but may also apply internally. Examples of internal input/output devices include system clocks and sensors that gather data from computer processes; optical drives, which allow users access to data in digital form; and memory cards, which transfer that data onto other systems or storage media for safekeeping.
While many computers have multiple input/output devices, they can be grouped into three main categories: keyboards, monitors, and printers.
Keyboards serve as an input device and an interface between user and computer. They receive commands from users through keystrokes.
When a user presses one key on their keyboard, it sends an electrical signal to their computer’s processor. It then transmits those commands to its monitor through another set of electrical signals.
Monitors work similarly by receiving visual inputs from computers and transmitting them to users. Printers do much of what monitors do, but with text instead of images. They receive printed text from computers and send it out to paper using mechanical arms and ink cartridges.
Other standard input/output devices include mice, speakers, webcams, and microphones. Mice function like trackpads do on smartphones; they use electrical signals sent by users’ movements to control objects on the screen.
Speakers convert audio outputs into sound waves that humans can hear more easily than electronic outputs.
Microphones convert sounds picked up by human ears into electronic signals so that a computer can interpret them more quickly than if humans tried to read lips or listen closely enough themselves.
All computers have some memory. Memory devices allow you to store information when your computer is turned off. This type of memory ranges from hard drives, CDs, and DVDs.
All these devices use different means for you to read and write information onto them. Still, it all works on a fundamental principle that allows you to store data temporarily as a user. The common types of memory are RAM and ROM.
RAM stands for Random Access Memory, whereas ROM stands for Read-Only Memory. These two types of memories are significant because they make up what we call the system.
The system includes many things: BIOS (Basic Input Output System), CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor), Operating System, etc.
Now let us discuss each device one by one:
The Hard Drive Storage
The hard drive storage is used for storing large amounts of data and programs that you need available at any time, also known as secondary storage.
A typical hard drive can hold about 500GBs worth of space, whereas most users will never use that much space.
The CD/DVD Drives are used for reading or writing information onto disks such as CDs or DVDs, also known as primary storage. A typical CD/DVD Drive can hold about 650MBs worth of space, where again, most users can’t come close to using that much space since CDs/DVDs aren’t extensive compared to a Hard Drive.
Flash drives store small amounts of data and programs that you may need access to quickly, also known as tertiary storage. A typical flash drive can hold 2GBs worth of space. Most users only use it for portable purposes like moving files around or backing up their other systems.
Last but not least, we have optical media, which is just another name for CDs/DVDs, except instead of being inside a disk reader, it’s placed inside an optical drive so that you can read/write information onto discs more easily.
Most people believe that machine language is what computers use; in reality, it’s assembly language. This low-level programming code must be written with care and precision since few safeguards and no hand-holding (i.e., you have minimal error checking).
If a line of code contains a syntax error, your computer will halt at that line, and you won’t run any other programs until you correct it. While many programmers find assembly language tedious, it’s also one of the best ways to learn how computers work fundamentally.
Once you’ve learned how to program in assembly language, you’ll find that writing higher-level languages like C++ or Java is much easier. It might seem like jumping through hoops now but trust us: Assembly language skills will come in handy later.
The Final Word
Computer organization is all about what it entails to work seamlessly with your computer. All you require is to know how the processor, the output/input, and the storage components function. Knowing the programming languages is also a plus.