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In order to work, a computer needs some sort of “brain” or “calculator”

At the core of every computer is a device roughly the size of a large
postage stamp. This device is known as the central processing unit,
or CPU for short. This is the “brain” of the computer. It reads and
executes program instructions, performs calculations, and makes
decisions. The CPU is responsible for storing and retrieving
information on disks and other media. It also handles information from
one part of the computer to another like a central switching station
that directs the flow of traffic throughout the computer to another like
a central switching station that directs the flow of traffic thought the
computer to another like a central switching station that directs the
flow of traffic thought the computer system.

PC’s are designed around different CPU generations. Intel is not the
only company manufacturing CPU’s but by far the leading one. The
following table shows the different CPU generations. They are
predominantly Intel chips, but in the 5 the generation we see
alternatives. There are CPU’s of many brand names (IBM, Texas,
Cyrix, AMD), and often they make models which overlap two
generations. This can make it difficult to keep track of CPU’s here is
an attempt to identify the various CPU’s according to generation.
The following table helps you to understand the differences between
the different processors that Intel has introduced over the years.

Name Date Transistor Micron Clock Date MIPS

s s Speed width
8080 1974 6,000 6 2MHz 8 bits 0.64
8088 1979 29,000 3 5MHz 16 0.33
bit bus
80286 1982 134,000 1.5 6MHz 16 bits 1
80386 1985 275,000 1.5 16MHz 32 bits 5
80486 1989 1,200,000 1 25MHz 32 bits 20
Pentium 1993 3,100,000 0.8 60MHz 32 bits, 100
64 bit
Pentium 1997 7,500,000 0.35 233 32 bits, 300
II MHz 64 bit
Pentium 1999 9,500,000 0.25 450MHz 32 bits, 510
III 64 bit
Pentium 2000 42,000,000 0.18 1.5 GHz 32 bits, 1,700
4 64 bit

The CPU carries out instructions and tells the rest of the computer
system what to do. This is done by the Control Unit of the CPU which
sends command signals to the other components of the system.

 It also performs arithmetic calculations and date manipulation.

E.g. Comparisons sorting, combining, etc. This is performed by
a part of the CPU known as the Arithmetic Logic Unit.
 It holds date and instructions which are in current use. These
are kept in the main store or Memory.

An actual CPU has these components or other with different names

that provide the same functions.

Control Unit: - The control unit directs the entire computer system to
carry out stored program instructions. The control unit must
communicate with both the arithmetic logic unit and main memory.
The control unit uses the instruction contained in the instruction
register to decide which circuits need to be activated.

The control unit co-ordinates the activates of

the other two units as well as all peripheral and
auxiliary storage devices linked to the computer.
The control unit instructs the arithmetic logic unit
which arithmetic operations or logical operation is to
Instruction be performed.

Specialized electronic circuitry in the control

unit is designed to decode program instructions held
in the main memory. Each instruction is read from
the memory into the instruction register. The
process of reading an instruction is often referred to
as the fetch-execute process.

Arithmetic Logic Unit: - The

Arithmetic logic unit executes

arithmetic and logical operations.

Arithmetic operations include addition, Accumulator

subtraction, multiplication and division

Logical operations compare numbers, Register

letters and special characters.

Comparison operations test for three conditions:-

 Equal-to condition in which two values are the same

 Less-than condition in which one value is smaller than the
 Greater-than condition in which one value is larger than the
 Relational operations (=, <, > 0 are used to describe the
comparison operations used by the arithmetic logic unit.

The arithmetic logic unit performs logic functions such as AND, OR

and Not. The accumulator is used to accumulate results. It is the
place where the answers from many operations are stored
temporarily before being put out to the operations are to performed by
the arithmetic logic unit.

Memory Unit: -The Memory unit is the part of the computer that
holds data and instructions for processing. Although it is closely
associated with the CPU, in actual fact is separate from it. Memory
associated with the CPU is also called primary storage, primary
memory, main storage, internal storage and main memory. When we
load software from a floppy disk, hard disk or CD-ROM, it is stored in
the Main Memory.

When you think about it, it’s amazing how many different types of
electronic memory you encounter in daily life. Many of them have
become an integral part of our vocabulary : RAM, ROM, Cache,
Dynamic RAM, Static RAM, Flash memory, Memory sticks, Volatile
memory, Virtual memory, Video memory, BIOS.

You already know that the computer in front of you has memory.
What you may not know is that most of he electronic items you use
every day have some form of memory also. Here are just a few
examples of the many items that use memory : Computers, Cell
phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDS’s) Game consoles, car
radios, VCRs, TVs.

Each of these devices uses different types of memory in different


There are two basic types of computer memory inside the computer,
RAM and ROM.

(a) RAM: RAM stand for Random Access Memory.

This is really the main store and is the place where the programs and
software we load gets stored. When the Central Processing Unit runs
a program, it fetches the program instructions from the RAM and
carries them out.

It the Central Processing Unit needs to store the results of

calculations, it can store them in RAM.

Random Access Memory can have instructions READ from it by the

CPU and also it can have numbers or other computer date WRITTEN
to it by the CPU. When we switch a computer off, whatever is stored
in the RAM gets erased.

Random access memory (RAM) is best known form of computer

memory. RAM is considered “random access” because you can
access any memory cell directly if you know the row and column that
interest at that cell. The opposite of RAM is serial access memory
(SAM). (SAM) stores date as a series of memory cells that can only
be accessed sequentially (like a cassette tape). If the data is found
SAM works very well for memory buffers, where the data is normally
stored in the order in which it will be used (a good example is the
texture buffer memory on a video Card). RAM data, on the other
hand, can be accessed in any order.
(b) ROM: ROM stands for Read Only Memory.
The CPU can only fetch or read instructions from Read Only Memory
(or ROM). ROM comes with instructions permanently stored inside
and these instructions cannot be over-written by the computer’s CPU.
ROM memory is used for storing special sets of instructions which the
computers needs when it starts up.

When we switch the computer off, the contents of the ROM do not
get erased but remain stored permanently. Therefore it is non-volatile.

Read-only memory (ROM), also known as firmware is an

integrated circuit programmed with specific data when it is
manufactured. ROM chips are used not only in computers, but in
most other electronic items as well.

(c) Cache Memory: Caching is a technology based on the

memory subsystem of your computer. The main purpose of a
cache is to accelerate your computer while keeping the price of
the computer low. Caching allows you to do your computer
tasks more rapidly.

Cache technology is use of a faster but smaller memory type to

accelerate a slower but larger memory type. When using a cache,
you must check the cache to see if an item is in there. If it is there, it’s
called a cache hit. If not, it is called a cache miss and the computer
must wait for a round trip from the larger, slower memory area. A
cache has some maximum size that is much smaller than the larger
storage area. It is possible to have multiple layers of cache.

There are a lot of subsystems in a computer; you can put cache

between many of them to improve performance. Here’s an example.
We have the microprocessor (the fastest thing in the computer). Then
there’s the L1 cache that caches the L2 cache that caches the main
memory which can be used (and is after used) as a cache for even
slowed peripherals like hard disks and CD ROMs the hard disks are
also used to cache an even slower medium your internet connection.

 L1 cache-memory accesses at full microprocessor speed (10

nanoseconds, 4 kilobytes to 16 kilobytes in size)

 L2 cache Memory access of type SRAM (around 20 to 30

nanoseconds, 128 kilobytes to 512 kilobytes in size)

 Min memory- Memory access of type RAM (around 60

nanoseconds, 32 megabytes to 128 megabytes in size)

 Hard disk Mechanical-slow (around 12 milliseconds, 1

gigabyte to 10 gigabytes in size)

(d) Flash Memory: Electronic memory comes in a variety of forms

to serve a variety of purposes. Flash memory is used for easy and
fast information storage in such devices as digital cameras and home
video game consoles. It is used more as a hard drive than as RAM. In
fact, Flash memory is considered a solid state storage device. Solid
state means that there are no moving parts everything is electronic
instead of mechanical.

Here are a few examples of Flash memory:

 Computer’s BIOS chip

 Compact Flash (Most often found in digital cameras)

 Smart Media (most often found in digital cameras)

 Memory Stick( most often found in digital cameras)

 PCMCIA Type I and Type II memory cards (used as solid-state
disks in laptops)

 Memory cards for video game consoles

Virtual Memory

Most computers today have something like 32 or 64 megabytes of

RAM available for the CPU to use. Unfortunately, that amount of RAM
is not enough to run all of the programs that most users expect to run
at once. For example, if you load the operating system, an e-mail
program a web browser and word processor into RAM
simultaneously, 32 megabytes is not enough to hold it all. If there
were no such thing as virtual memory, then once you filled up the
available RAM your computer would have to say “Sorry, you cannot
load any more applications.

Please close another application to load a new one “with virtual

memory, what the computer can do is look at RAM for areas that
have not been used recently and copy them onto the hard disk. This
frees up space in RAM to load the new application.

Because this copying happens automatically, you don’t even

know it is happening and it makes your computer feel like that it has
unlimited RAM space even though it only has 32 megabytes installed.
Because hard disk space is so much cheaper than RAM chips, it also
has a once economic benefit.

The read/write speed of a hard drive is much slower than RAM and
the technology of a hard drive is not geared toward accessing small
pieces of data at a time. If your system has to rely too heavily on
virtual memory, you will notice a significant performance drop. The
key is to have enough RAM to handle everything you tend to work on
simulating eusol then, the only time you “feel” the slowness of virtual
memory is when there’s a slight pause when you’re changing tasks.
When that’s the case, virtual memory is perfect.

When it is not the case, the operating system has to constantly swap
information back and forth between RAM and the hard disk. This is
called thrashing, and it can make your computer feel incredibly slow.

The area of the hard disk that stores the RAM image is called a
page file. It holds pages of RAM on the hard disk, and the operating
system moves date back and forth between the page file and RAM.
On a Windows machine, page files have a SWP extension.



Level 1

Level 2


Physical Virtual
RAM Memory

Storage Device Types

RAM Remova Network Nard

Bids l Drives internet Opera
Input Sources

Keyboar Mouse Remova Scann Remot Other

d Source
l Midis er e
intern Source

Buses have grown and evolved over the years in an effort to match
the performance of all the other computer components. Even so, the
evolution of the bus has been surprisingly slow compared to other
technologies. Most computers sold today still gave an Industry
Standard Architecture (ISA) bus that will accept computer cards
developed for the original IBM PC in the early 1980s.

There have been a couple of key reasons for this bus


There is a need for long-term compatibility with a large number

of hardware manufactures. Before

the rise of multimedia, few hardware
Level peripherals fully utilized the speed of the

cache bus. A typical computer has two key

buses. The first one known as the
CPU Memory
r system bus or local bus connects the
Front side microprocessor (central processing unit)
and the system memory. Other buses,
such as the ISA and PCI buses connect
Graphic AGP to the system bus through a bridge,
s Card Chipset
which is a part of the computer’s chipset
and acts as a traffic cop, integrating the
date from the other buses to the system

As the speed of central processing units (CPUs) and RAM increased,

it became more important to isolate the path between processor and
memory. A replacement for the standard system bus, called Dual
independent Bus (DIB), was created. DIB replaced the single system
bus with a front side bus and a backside bus. The backside bus has
one purpose: to provide a direct, fast channel between the CPU and
the Level 2 cache. The front side bus connected the system memory,
via the memory controller, to the CPU, and the other buses to the
CPU and system memory.

The other main bus, the shared bus, is for connecting additional
components to the computer. It is called a shared bus because it lets
multiple devices access the same path to the CPU and system
memory. This device includes such items such as:

 Modem

 Hard drive

 Sound card

 Graphics card

 Controller card

 Scanner

As technology advanced and the ISA bus grew long in the tooth,
other buses were developed. Key among these was Extended
Industry Standard architecture (EISA) which was 32 bits at 8 MHz
and VESA Local Bus (VL Bus). The cool thing about VL-bus (named
after VESA, the Video Electronics Standards association which
created the standard) is that it was 32 bits wide and operated at the
speed of the local bus, which was normally the speed of the
processor itself. The VL-bus essentially tied directly into the CPU.
This worked okay for a single device, or maybe even two. But
connecting more than two devices to the VL-bus introduced the
possibility of interference with the performance of the CPU. Because
of this the VL-Bus was typically used only for connecting a graphics
card, a component the really benefits from high speed access to the

During the early 1990s Intel introduced a new bus standard for
consideration the peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI). PCI
presents a hybrid of sorts between ISA and VL-Bus. It provides direct
access to system memory for connected devices, but uses a bridge to
connect to the front side bus and therefore to the CPU. Basically this
means that it is capable of even higher performance than VL-Bus
while eliminating the potential for interference with the CPU.

PCI can connect more devices than VL-Bus up to five external

components. Each of the five connectors for an external component
can be replaced with two fixed devices on the motherboard. Also, you
can have more than one PCI bus on the same computer, although
this is rarely done. The PCI bridge chip regulates the speed of the
PCI bus independently of the CPU’s speed. This provides a higher
degree of reliability and ensures that PCI-hardware manufactures
know exactly what to design for.

Bus Type Bus Width Bus Speed Mb/SEC

ISA 16 Bits 8 MHz 16 MBps
EISA 32 Bits 8 MHz 32 MBps
VL-BUS 32 Bits 25 MHz 100 MBps
VL-BUS 32 Bits 33 MHz 132 MBps
PCI 32 Bits 33 MHz 132 MBps
PCI 64 Bits 33 MHz 264 MBps
PCI 64 Bits 66 MHz 512 Mbps
PCI 64 Bits 133MHz 1 GBps

PCI originally operated at 33 MHz using a 32 bit wide path.

Revisions to the standard include increasing the speed from 33 MHz
to 66 MHz and doubling the bit count to 64. Currently, PCI-X provides
for 64 bit transfers at a speed of 133 MHz for an amazing 1-GBps
(gigabyte per second) transfer rate!

ACCELERATED Graphics Port:

Modern computers rely heavily on graphic. For example, you

must be getting your training on a computer whose operating system

is based on a graphical user interface (GUI) that serves as the
primary interface between user and computer. You may enjoy playing
video games or creating 3-D graphics and animations. In fact, if you
are using your computer for anything other than the most basic
business-oriented tasks (word processing, spreadsheets) you
probably use lots of graphics.

The graphics card in modern PC can connect in one of several

different ways’

 Onboard – The graphics chips and memory are built right onto
the motherboard.

 PCI- The graphics card plugs into the PCI bus.

 AGP – The graphics card plugs into a slot dedicated to graphics


Like virtually all other components in a computer, gr4aphics cards

prior to AGP relied on bus to connect to the control processing unit
(CPU) essentially, a bus is the channel or path between the
components in a computer. While AGP is based on the PCI bus and
is after referred to as the “AGP bus” it is not actually a bus system.
Instead, it is a point-to point connection. In other words, the only
device connecting through AGP and system memory is the graphics
card. There are no other “stops” to make on the path. Therefore, it is
not truly a bus.

AGP provides two major enhancements over PCI:

 Faster performance

 Direct access to system memory

Let’s look at exactly how AGP works so we can understand what

these enhancements mean.

AGP uses several techniques to achieve faster performance:

 AGP is a 32 bit bus with a clock rate of 66 megahertz (MHz, or

million cycles per second). This means that in one second. It
can transfer 32 bits (4 bytes) of date 66 million times. The
transfer rate increases when you go to 2 x and 4x mode (more
about modes in this section).

 There are not other devices on the AGP bus, which means that
the graphics card does not have to share the bus. The graphics
card is always able to operate at the maximum capacity of the

 AGP uses pipelining to increases speed. Pipelining organizes

date retrieval into a sort of assembly line process. The graphics
card receives multiple chunks of date in response to a single
 Think of pipelining as placing an order for a seven course
dinner : you can tell the waiter the first thing that you want, wait
for him to bring it, then tell him the next thing you want wait for
him to bring to and so on unit you’re done with your order. Or
you can tell the waiter everything you want at once and let him
start bringing it to you. You’ll get the courses in the same
sequence either way, but it’s much more efficient without the
additional discussions.

 AGP uses sideband addressing, which allows the graphic card

to request and issue addressing information using eight
additional address lines that are separate from the 32 bit path
used to transfer date.

A good analogy for sideband addressing is the request line at a

radio station. Consider the music that the station is playing as date
flowing from system memory to the graphics card. You call in to the
station’s request line and ask for a song to be played next. Your
request does not interfere with the current song that is playing but it
does tell the station what should be queued next. Sideband
addressing essentially does the same thing for AGP.


The original PC bus operated at 4.77 MHz and was 8 bits wide
meaning it could process 8 bits of date in each cycle. In 1982, it
improved to 16 bits at 8 MHz and officially became known as industry
standard Architecture (ISA). This bus design is capable of passing
along date at a rate of up to 16 MBps.
Early graphics cards from the monochrome display adapter of
the early 1980 s through Super Video Graphics Array (SVGA)
adapters in the 1990 plugged into an ISA slot on the motherboard of
the computer. As the number of colors and resolution of the display
increased, ISA-based graphics cards were simply too slow. The ISA
bus could not pump the image date to the CPU fast enough.

Over the years, ISA based graphics cards were replaced with
VESA Local Bus (VL-Bus) graphics cards. The Video Electronics
Standards Association VESA agreed on a standard implementation of
SVGA that provided up to 16.8 million colors and 1280x1024
resolutions. These cards plugged into a special slot on the
motherboard that was on a separate bus from ISA. The graphics bus
was considered a local bus because it was connected directly to the
CPU and had to be physically near it.

The VL-bus was 32 bits wide and operated at the speed of the
local bus which was normally the speed of the processor itself. The
VL-Bus essentially tied directly into the CPU. This worked okay for a
single device, or maybe even two. But connecting more than two
devices to the VL-bus introduced the possibility of interference with
the performance of the CPU. Because of this the VL-Bus was
typically used only for connecting a graphics card, a component that
really benefits from high-speed access to the CPU.

VL-Bus cards communicated with the CPU at the same speed

as the CPU’s clock. What this means is that if a CPU were rated at
100 MHz the graphics card transferred 32 bits of date 100 million time
s per second. There were two problems with this approach:

 The graphics card manufacturer has no idea how fast a

customer’s system would be.

 Tying directly into the CPU could actually slow the CPU
down, resulting in poorer performance.

Along comes peripheral component interconnect (PCI) a

completely new Bus standard. The PCI bus is something of a hybrid
between ISA and VL-Bus it provides direct access to system memory
for connected devices but uses a bridge to connect to the CPU.
Basically, this means that it is capable of even higher performance
that VL Bus while eliminating the potential for interference with the

Now AGP provides higher performance graphics processing

than PCI. With even more improvements in the queue for AGP, it
looks like graphics technology will continue to keep up with graphic
designers, meaning the coolest computer images are yet to come.


The motherboard has been an integral part of most personal

computers for more than 20 years. Think of a motherboard as a scale
model of a futuristic city with many modular plug-in buildings, each
using power from a common electrical system. Multiple-lane
highways of various circuit cards performing various functions all plug
into many similar sockets on a common circuit board. Each circuit
card performs a unique function in the computer and gets it s power
from the socket.

The original IBM PC contained the original PC motherboard. In

this design which premiered in 1982.

Premiered in 1982 the motherboard itself was a large printed circuit

card that contained the 8088 microprocessor, the BIOS, sockets for
the CPU’s RAM and a collection of slots that auxiliary cards could
plug into. If you wanted to add a floppy disk drive or a parallel port of
a joystick, you bought a separate card and plugged it into one of the
slots. This approach was pioneered in the mass market by the Apple
II machine. By making it easy to add cards, Apple and IBM
accomplished two huge things:

 They made it easy to add new features to the machine over


 They opened the computer to creative opportunities of third

party vendors.

Different motherboards of different vintages typically have different

from factors. The form factor is essentially the size shape and design
of the actual motherboard. There are more than a half dozen form
factors for motherboards. The motherboard by enabling pluggable
components allows users to personalize a computer system
depending on their applications and needs.

Motherboard: A motherboard is a multi layered printed circuit

board. Copper circuit paths called traces that resemble a complicated
roadmap carry signals and voltages across the motherboard. Layered
fabrication techniques are used so that some layers of a board can
carry data for the BIOS, processor and memory buses while other
layers carry voltage and ground returns without the paths short-
circuiting at intersections. The insulated layers are manufactured into
one complete, complex sandwich. Chips and sockets are soldered
onto the motherboard.

Examples: the MSI 694D Pro AR supports dual Pentium

microprocessors has five PCI slots and a communications network
riser (CNR) slot. The board supports 133 MHz bus speeds and ultra
direct memory access 100 (UDMA). There are four USB ports and
onboard audio in the ATX from factor board.

Data Bus width: Modern Pentium class motherboards have a data

bus with 64 bits. That is the width of the date highway that goes in
and out of the processor. The Pentium processors, however, do use
32 bits registers to handle 32 bit instructions.

Bus speeds and widths have increased use to faster processors

and the needs of multimedia applications. Typical bus names and
widths are:

 Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) 8 or 16 bits extended

industry Standard Architecture (EISA) 8 or 16 bits

 Micro channel Architecture (MCA) 16 or 32 bits

 VESA Local Bus (VLB) 32 bits

 Peripheral component Interconnect (PCI) 32 or 64 bits

 Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) 32 bits


The voice in your computer that lets you know when you’ve
received a new email is made possible by the sound card. Before the
arrival of sound cards Personal Computers (PCs) were limited to
beeps from a tiny speaker on the motherboard. In the late 1980 s
sound cards ushered in the multimedia PC and took computer games
to a whole different level.

In 1989 Creative labs introduced the Creative labs

SoundBlaster@ Card Since then many other companies have
introduced sound cards and Creative has continued to improve the
Sound Blaster line

Anatomy of a sound Card: A typical sound card has:

 A digital signal processor (DSP) that handles most


 A digital to analog converter (DAC) for audio leaving the


 An analog to digital converter (ADC) for audio coming into the


 Read only memory (ROM) or Flash memory for storing date

 Musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) for connecting to

external music equipment (for many cards, the game port is
also used to connect an external MIDI adapter)
 Jacks for connecting speakers and microphones, as well as line
in and line out

 A game port for connecting a joystick or gamepad

Current sound cards usually plug into a peripheral Component

interconnect (PCI) slot, while some older or inexpensive cards may
use the industry standard architecture (ISA) bus. Many of the
computers available today incorporate the sound card as a chips right
on the motherboard. This leaves another slot open for other
peripherals the sound blaster Pro is considered the de facto standard
for sound cards. Virtually every sound card on the market today
includes sound blaster pro compatibility as a minimum.

Often different brands of sound cards from different manufactures

use the same chipset. The basic chipset comes from a third party
vendor. The sound card manufacturer then adds various other
functions and bundled software to help differentiate their product.

Sound cards may be connected to:

 Headphones

 Amplified speakers

 An analog input source

 Microphone

 Radio

 Tape deck

 CD player
 A digital input source

 Digital audiotape (DAT)

 CD-ROM drive

 An analog output device tape deck

 A digital output device


 CD recordable (CD-R)

Some of the current high end sound cards offer four speaker
output and digital interface through a jack. For audiophiles there is a
new generation of digital sound cards. A digital sound card is practical
for applications that need digital sound such as CD-R and DAT
Staying digital without any conversion to or from analog helps prevent
what is called “generational loss”. Digital sound cards have provisions
for digital sound input and output so you can transfer data from DAT,
DVD of CD directly to your hard disk in your PC.

Catching the Wave:

Typically, a sound card can do four things with sound:

 Play prerecorded music (from CDs or sound files, such as wav

or MP3), games or DVDs

 Record audio in various media from external sources

microphone or tape player)

 Synthesize sounds
 Process existing sounds

The DAC and ADC provide the means for getting the audio in and
out of the sound card while the DSP oversees the process. The DSP
also takes care of any alterations to the sound, such as echo or
reverb. Because the DSP focuses on the audio processing the
computer’s main processor can take care of other tasks.

Early sound cards used FM synthesis to create sounds FM

synthesis takes tones at varying frequencies and combines them to
create an approximation of a particular sound such as the blare of a
trumpet. While FM synthesis has matured to the point where it can
sound very realistic it does not compare to wavetable synthesis.
Wavetable synthesis works by recording a tiny sample of the actual
instrument with incredible accuracy. Wavetable synthesis has
become the standard for most sound cards, but some of the

Inexpensive brands still use FM synthesis. A few cards provide

both types.

Very sophisticated sound cards have more support for MIDI

instruments. Using a music program, a MIDI equipped music
instrument can be attached to the sound card to allow you to see on
the computer screen the music score of what you’re playing.

Producing sound:

Let’s say you speak into your computer microphone. A sound card
creates a sound file in wave format from the date input through the
microphone. The process of converting that data into a file to be
recorded to the hard disk is:
 The sound card receives a continuous analog waveform input
signal from the microphone jack. The analog signals received
vary in both amplitude and frequency.

 Software in the computer selects which input (s) will be used

depending on whether the microphone sound is being mixed
with a CD in the CD-ROM drive.

 The mixed, analog waveform signal is processed in real time by

an analog to digital converter (ADC) circuit chip, creating a
binary (digital) output of 1s and 0s.

 The digital output from the ADC flows into the DSP. Is
programmed by a set of instructions stored on another chip on
the sound card. One of the functions of the DSP is to compress
the now digital date in order to save space. The DSP also
allows the computer’s to perform other tasks while this is taking

 The output from the DSP is fed to the computer’s date bus by
way of connections on the sound card (or traces on the
motherboard to and from the sound chipst).

 The digital data is processed by the computer’s processor and

routed to the hard disk controller it is then sent on to the hard
disk drive as a recorded way file.

To listen to a prerecorded wave file, the process is simply reversed:

 Digital data is read from the hard disk and passed on to the
central processor.

 The central processor passed the date to the DSP on the sound

 The DSP uncompressed the digital date.

 The uncompressed, digital date stream from the DSP is

processed in real-time by a digital to analog converter (DAC)
circuit chip, creating an analog signal that you hear in the
headphones or through the speakers, depending on which is
connected to the sound card’s headphone jack.