Hardware can be daunting. The following is a brief look at why every computer science major should be knowledgeable in the acronyms that abound within the computer industry.
Budding computer science majors can be thankful to Ken Thompson’s desire to travel space. It was this desire that maintained a failed attempt of an operating system by a joint venture of General Electric, Bell Labs, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The operating system was named Multics and was abandoned in the late sixties, yet Ken Thompson had programmed a game he named Space Travel for Multics and it still needed an operating system on which to run. As they did not have the resources they had to run Multics at the house, Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie worked together to produce what we know today as UNIX (Ritchie, 1984), yet UNIX now needed a platform upon which to run and yet again, another savior to computer science that we can be thankful for today, IBM mass-produced personal computers for use in the common household. Yet, thankfully, IBM failed at dominating the personal computer market and clones became yet another savior.
Personal computers and their clones are comprised of standard, interchangeable components. Components such as Random Access Memory (RAM), Read Only Memory (ROM), Central Processing Unit (CPU), Hard Disk Drive (HDD), Compact Disc or Digital Versatile Disc Read Only Memory often referred to as CD-ROM or DVD-ROM, motherboards, Graphic Processing Unit (formerly known as video cards and now referred to as GPU), and the like are the norm for any typical computer whether they are of the desktop or laptop varieties. Form factors must also be taken into account terms such as XT, AT, ATX, miniATX, BTX (N.A., 2010) are very common among hardware vendors and budding computer science majors should be familiar with these terms.
The question has been posed, which characteristics of hardware should a computer science major be most concerned with, but this author believes that a computer science major should be more concerned with how all the components of any computer interact with each other. As the switch is flipped on a PC, power is supplied to the rest of the components, the Basic Input Output System, or the BIOS, is the first thing to come alive and check the hardware. It should be noted however that BIOS’s have been around since the dawn of PC’s and are starting to be replaced by a new technology invented by Intel and backed by the major players in the computing industry, Microsoft, Dell, Apple, HP, IBM, Lenovo, and AMD. Known as Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, or UEFI, some are dubbing it the “death of the BIOS” (Krynin, 2010). Once the hardware passes the Power On Self Test, or POST, the operating system then begins to load itself into RAM. The more RAM you have in your...