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PCs vs Mainframes

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, a mainframe computer is a digital computer designed for high-speed data processing with heavy use of input/output units such as large-capacity disks and printers. They have been used for such applications as payroll computations, accounting, business transactions, information retrieval, airline seat reservations, and scientific and engineering computations. Mainframe systems, with remote “dumb” terminals, have been displaced in many applications by client-server architecture.

Encyclopedia Britannica also states that a personal computer is a digital computer designed for use by only one person at a time. A typical personal computer assemblage consists of a central processing unit (CPU), which contains the computer’s arithmetic, logic, and control circuitry on an integrated circuit; two types of computer memory, main memory, such as digital random-access memory (RAM), and auxiliary memory, such as magnetic hard disks and special optical compact discs, or read-only memory (ROM) discs (CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs); and various input/output devices, including a display screen, keyboard and mouse, modem, and printer.

Mainframe computers are centralized and users access the information on a mainframe via a workstation.  A workstation can resemble a personal computer, but is often a dumb terminal with all the actual computing done on the mainframe itself.   Mainframes are often used to ‘batch’ transactions in financial company, which is one of the best ways to process large transaction volumes and maintain the large databases often required by such companies.

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Computer Basics

A computer’s case provides a frame and protective skin for the computer components. It is also called the closure or system unit.
The central processing unit (CPU), or microprocessor, performs the calculations for the computer. It generates heat, and thus requires a fan and heatsink. The heatsink is made of copper or aluminum served to draw heat from the processor. CPUs have a make and model and are usually made by AMD or Intel Intel uses a land grid array(LGA), while AMD uses a pin grid array(PGA). CPUs are designed to fit into a socket.
RAM, or random access memory, stores the data in instructions being used for the CPU. A piece of RAM is referred to as a stack, and the average PC has 1 GB to 4 GB of RAM. A common stick of RAM is called a dual inline memory module (DIMM). A PC will only take one type of DIMM.
The motherboard is the backbone of the computer. It contains the sockets that except the various PC components. CPUs and RAM plug directly into the motherboard, and the motherboard provides the onboard connectors for mice, printers, joysticks, a keyboards.
The power supply provides electrical power to the computer, converting standard power to power the PC can use. The power supply has its own fan.
A floppy drive enables the computer to access removable floppy disks.
The hard drive stores the programs and data not being used by the CPU. PCs can accept multiple hard drives. Older model hard drives use Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment(PATA) with a wide ribbon cables similar to the one used by floppy drives. Newer models use Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) with a narrow table. Most motherboards have both types of connectors.
Optical media also use a PATA or SATA connector. Optical media drives include CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray.

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Metric vs Computers

A common misconception is that computer bytes and bits follow the metric system.  It’s an easy mistake to make, as they use the same terminology and the results are somewhat close, but computers use base 2 while the metric system uses base 10.

In computer terminology:

1 Kilo (K)= 2^10 = 1,024
1 Mega (M)= 2^20 = 1,048,576
1 Giga (G) = 2^30 = 1,073,741,824
1 Tera (T) = 2^40 = 1,099,511,627,776

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