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any machinery (most of which uses digital circuits) that assist in the input, processing, storage, and output activities of an information system

central processing unit (CPU)

the part of the computer that consists or three associated elements: the arithmetic/logic unit, the control unit and the register areas

arithmetic/logic unit (ALU)

the part of the CPU that performs mathematic calculations and makes logical comparisons

control unit

the part of the CPU that sequentially accesses program instructions decodes them and coordinates the flow of data in and out of the ALU registers primary storage and even secondary storage and various output devices


a high-speed storage area in the CPU used to temporarily hold small units of program instructions and data immediately before, during, and after execution by the CPU

primary storage (main memory; memory)

the part of the computer that holds program instructions and data

instruction time (l-time)

the time it takes to perform the fetch-instructions and decode instruction steps of the instruction phase

execution time (E-times)

the time it takes to execute an instruction and store the results

machine cycle

the instruction phase followed by the execution phase


a form of CPU operation in which multiple execution phases are performed in a single machine cycle

system unit

components responsible for processing are housed together in the same box


millions of instructions per second, a measure of machine cycle time

clock speed

a series of electronic pulses produced at a predetermined rate that affects machine cycle time


predefined, elementary circuits and logical operations that the processor performs when it executes an instruction


millions of cycles per second


billions of cycles per second

Moore's Law

a hypothesis stating that transistor densities on a single chip double every two years


eight bits that together represent a single character of data

random access memory (RAM)

a form of memory in which instructions or data can be temporarily stored


used for storage modules for USB drives and digital camera memeory cards

NOR Flash

flash memory that supports 1-byte random access so that machine instructions can be fetched and executed directly from the flash chip just like computers fetch instructions from main memory

read-only memory (ROM)

a nonvolitile form of memory that provides permanent storage for data and instructions that do not change

cache memory

a type of high-speed memory that a processor can access more rapidly that main memory


the simultaneous execution of two or more instructions at the same time


the part of the computer that speeds processing by executing specific types of instructions while the CPU works on another processing activity

multicore microprocessor

a microprocessor that combines two or more independent processors into a single computer so they can share the workload and improve processing capacity

parallel computing

the simultaneous execution of the same task on multiple processors to obtain results faster

massively parallel processing

a form of multiprocessing that speeds processing by linking hundreds or thousands of processors to operate at the same time, or in parallel, with each processor having its own bus, memory, disks, copy of the operating system and applications

grid computing

the use of a collection of computers often owned by multiple individuals or organizations, to work in a coordinated manner to solve a common problem

cloud computing

using a giant cluster of computers to serve as a host to run applications that require high-performance computing

secondary storage (permanent storage)

devices that store larger amounts of data instruction and information more permanently than allowed with main memory

sequential access

a retrieval method in which data must be accessed in the order in which it is stored

direct access

a retrieval method in which data can be retrieved without the need to read and discard other data

sequential access storage device (SASD)

a device used to sequentially access secondary storage data

direct access storage device (DASD)

a device used for direct access of secondary storage data

magnetic tape

a secondary storage medium; Mylar film coated with iron oxide with portions of the tape magnetized to represent bits

magnetic disk

a common secondary storage medium, with bits represented magnetized areas

redundant array or independent/inexpensive disk (RAID)

a method of storing data that generates extra bits of data from existing data, allowing the system to create a "reconstruction map" so that if a hard drive fails, the system can rebuild lost data

disk mirroring

a process of storage data that provides an exact copy the protects users fully in the event of data loss

virtual tape

a storage device that manages less frequently needed data so that it appears to be stored entirely on tape cartridges, although some parts of it might actually be located on hard disks

optical disc

a rigid disc of plastic onto which data is recorded by special lasers that physically burn pits in the disc

compact disc-read-only memory (CD-ROM)

a common form of optical disc on which data once it has been recorded cannot be modified

digital video disc (DVD)

a storage medium used to store digital video or computer data

network-attached storage (NAS)

storage devices that attach to a network instead of to a single computer

storage area network (SAN)

the technology that provides high speed connections between data storage devices and computers over a network

policy-based storage management

automation of storage using previously defined policies

data entry

converting human-readable data into a machine-readable form

data input

transferring machine-readable data into the system

source data automation

capturing and editing data where it is initially created and in a form that can be directly input to a computer, thus ensuring accuracy and timeliness

speach-recognition technology

input devices that recognize human speach

optical data reader

scanning device

magnetic stripe card

a type of card that stores limited amounts of data by modifying the magnetism of tiny iron-based particles contained in a band on the card

point-of-sales (POS) device

a terminal used in retail operations to enter sales information into the computer system

radio frequency identification (RFID)

a technology that employs a microchip with an antenna that broadcasts its unique identifier and location to recievers


a dot of color on a photo image or a point of light on a display screen

plasma display

a plasma display uses thousands of smart cells (pixels) consisting of electrodes and neon and xeon gases which are electrically turned into plasma (electrically charged atoms and negatively charged particles) to emit light

LCD display

flat display that uses liquid crystals-organic, oil-like material placed between two polarizers-to form characters and graphic images on a blacklit screen

digital audio player

a device that can store, organize and play digital music files


a standard format for compressing a sound sequence into a small file

handheld computer

a single-user computer that provides ease of portability because of its small size


a phone that combines the functionality of a mobile phone, personal digital assistant, camera, web browser, e-mail tool and other devices into a single handheld device

thin client

a low-cost centrally managed computer with essential but limited capabilities and no extra drives, such as a CD or DVD drive, or expansion slot


a more powerful personal computer that is used for technical computing, such as engineering, but still fits on a desktop


a computer designed for a specific task such as network or internet applications


the ability to increase capability of a computer system to process more transactions in a given period by adding more, or more powerful processors

blade server

a server that houses many individual computer motherboards that include one or more processors, computer memory, computer storage and computer network connections

mainframe computer

a large powerful computer often shared by hundreds of concurrent users connected to the machine via terminals


the most powerful computer systems with fastest processing speeds

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