Chapter 1. Basic Computing Concepts

Modern computers come in all shapes and sizes, and they aid us in a million different types of tasks ranging from the serious, like air traffic control and cancer research, to the not-so-serious, like computer gaming and photograph retouching. But as diverse as computers are in their outward forms and in the uses to which they’re put, they’re all amazingly similar in basic function. All of them rely on a limited repertoire of technologies that enable them do the myriad kinds of miracles we’ve come to expect from them.

At the heart of the modern computer is the microprocessor—also commonly called the central processing unit (CPU)—a tiny, square sliver of silicon that’s etched with a microscopic network of gates ...

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