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INFObits: a bit of information as we know it


INFObits: Optical Drive CD/DVD/Blu-ray discs

Hey everyone, Nanno here with some INFObits. Today I want to give you some CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive and disc basics. 

Can you believe this technology has been around for 30 years? -Since 1982. CD, DVD, and Blu-ray optical disks and drives use basically the same technology. You have a thin plastic/alloy disc, a laser, a magnifier, a tracking device and a spiral motor. Aside from some plastic and metal parts, that is about it. Done…NOT!

On the top side of a CD/DVD/Blu-Ray disc a thin coat of miscellaneous alloy is stamped onto a polycarbonate disc and a very thin acrylic coat is put on to protect the disc. Data is recorded onto the disc creating “lands” and “pits” which are detected by a laser as either a 1 or a 0. Pretty sure the 1 would be a land and a 0 would be a pit. -Don’t worry, I won’t go on a binary code rant, I do love binary! Anyway, the lands and pits (info) are created on a disc by being “pressed” in a factory, or “burnt” with a laser with your PC. To read the info the disk is spun with a motor assembly. The laser uses optical light to read the base surface. A zoom lens is used to see the light. The lens is tracked across a precision monitoring mechanism permitting the laser to see the data as it travels in a spiral. The difference involving DVD and Blu-ray is actually purely right down to the “color” of the laser. Blu-ray gets its name from using an “azure” (blue) laser that has a shorter wavelength compared to the red laser utilized in DVD drives. This smaller wavelength provides the laser a far more accurate concentration of its “ray” to ensure that more information could be packed and read to a same sized disk.
 
And there you have it, my repertoire of optical disc and drive technology. I hope this article has shined some light (pardon the pun) on how optical drives and storage works.


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INFObits: Random Access Memory

Hey everyone, Nanno here with some INFObits. Today I want to give you some RAM basics.

RAM is an acronym for “random-access memory”. RAM temporarily stores programs in use by the user and the central-processing unit (CPU). When a computer is turned on, the RAM is empty, no data or info is in it until you open or load a program. Programs are permanently stored on external storage devices, like a hard disk, CD/DVD, flash drive, etc. When a program is opened, it is copied from the storage device onto the RAM, which is “connected” to the CPU via the motherboard. The RAM sends information to the CPU at extremely high speeds. RAM is “volatile”, which means that once the program is closed, it is purged from the RAM and not saved. RAM is a read-write memory so information can be read /accessed and new information can be written into the memory. 

The most common form is DRAM, or “dynamic random-access memory”. DRAMs have “cells” that are basically rows and columns “etched” into a tiny silicon chip. Each cell in DRAM contains one bit of data (either a 1 or a 0). The two major components of DRAM are transistors and capacitors. Capacitors hold the "bit" (1 or 0) of data, while transistors act like a switch allowing the information in the capacitor to be read, or for the state of the capacitor to be changed (i.e. for the bit to be changed from a 1 to a 0 or from a 0 to a 1). I do love binary but in simpler terms, imagine the capacitor as a bucket that has a leak in it. If the "bucket" is full of electrons, then the “bit” of information it stores will be a 1. If the bucket is empty, then a 0 will be stored. Since this bucket leaks, in a few nanoseconds, it can become empty! The memory has to be constantly refreshed/refilled. This refresh function is automatically performed 1000s of times every second by electrical pulses. Basically, this is reflected by MHz speed, i.e. 1066, 1333, 1600, etc. The memory cells in DRAM are synchronized (hence “SDRAM”) so that the CPU can access the information in any cell in the same amount of time. That is mainly why different kinds of RAM usually will not work together in the same computer. RAM is also used in printers and many, many other devices. 

There is a lot more to RAM than I can put into this very long post (or know!). They come in sticks, value for your bucks, and the easiest way to upgrade your PC. They are truly amazing bits!

                  
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INFObits: Your standard Video Card

Hey everyone, Nanno here with some INFObits. Today I want to give you some video/graphic card basics.

Graphics technology continues to thrive in modern computing. Video hardware can be integrated into the motherboard or (as with more recent designs) the CPU, but all modern motherboards provide expansion ports to which a video card can be attached. A video card, display card, graphics card, Display Adapter or graphics adapter is an expansion card which generates a feed of output images to a display. Most video cards offer various functions such as accelerated rendering of 3D scenes and 2D graphics, MPEG-2/MPEG-4 decoding, TV output, or the ability to connect multiple monitors.

Graphics can be incorporated into your system in two ways
1.Either on the motherboard in which case it will get its memory from the systems ram.
2.Or as a separate card that plugs into the AGP slot on your motherboard. It will have memory dedicated to its operation.

The main purpose of the graphics card is to process and speed up 2D and 3D graphical functions. It has processor called a Graphics processing unit specialized for computing graphical transformations that can achieve more powerful graphical representations than a conventional CPU. Graphics cards free up the CPU allowing them to execute other commands.

How do graphic cards work you ask?
- The applications you are using will inform your pc of the various tasks that need to be carried out to display an image on the screen

- The graphics card driver will decide which graphical tasks the graphics card will assist with by processing the data

-The tasks that can be accelerated by the graphics card are processed by the Graphics processing unit (chip on the graphics card). The software drivers for the graphics card and the operating system on the computer will help coordinate this. Tasks that the GPU cannot handle are given to the CPU to process.

-As objects are processed and drawn the graphics chip stores the processed data in the framebuffer (video memory) . Any graphical tasks carried out by the cpu are also transferred to the framebuffer.

-The RAMDAC chip will convert the digital information into analogue if the monitor being used is analogue. If the monitor is digital the RAMDAC is bypassed.

-Analogue data is sent to the monitor through the VGA connector. The monitor will interpret this data and will light up pixels on the screen which make up the display. The number of times this is done per second is called the Refresh rate. The higher the refresh rate the more smooth the image will appear on the screen.

As the processing power of video cards has increased, so has their demand for electrical power. Current high-performance video cards tend to consume a great deal of power. While CPU and power supply makers have recently moved toward higher efficiency, power demands of GPUs have continued to rise, so the video card may be the biggest electricity user in a computer.


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INFObits: Central Processing Unit

Hey everyone, Nanno here with some INFObits. Today I want to give you some CPU basics.
 
The heart of a computer is the Central Processing Unit or CPU. CPUs contain all the circuitry that computers need to manipulate data and execute instructions. The first processors emerged in the early 1970s and were used for electronic calculators, using binary-coded decimal (BCD) arithmetic on 4-bit words. Affordable 8-bit microprocessors with 16-bit addressing also led to the first general-purpose computers from the mid-1970s on. Since the early 1970s, the increase in capacity of processors has followed Moore's law; this originally suggested that the number of transistors that can be fitted onto a chip doubles every year, though Moore later refined the period to two years. The CPU is amazingly small given the immense amount of circuitry it contains. Circuits of a computer are made of gates. Gates, however are also made of another tiny component called a transistor, and a modern CPU has millions and millions of transistors in its circuitry. Here are the 5 main components of a CPU and their functions.

• Control Unit: this component is responsible for directing the flow of instructions and data within the CPU. The Control Unit is actually built of many other selection circuits such as decoders and multiplexors. In the diagram, the Decoder and the Multiplexor compose the Control Unit.

• RAM: this component is created from combining latches with a decoder. The latches create circuitry that can remember, while the decoder creates a way for individual memory locations to be selected.

• Registers: these components are special memory locations that can be accessed very fast. Three registers are: the Instruction Register (IR), the Program Counter (PC), and the Accumulator.

• Buses: these components are the information highway for the CPU. Buses are bundles of tiny wires that carry data between components. The three most important buses are the address, the data, and the control buses. These are shown by the colored lines.

• ALU: this component is the number cruncher of the CPU. The Arithmetic Logic Unit performs all the mathematical calculations of the CPU. It is composed of complex circuitry. The ALU can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and perform a host of other calculations on binary numbers.


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INFObits: Your standard hard drive

Hey everyone, Nanno here with some INFObits. Today I want to give you some hard drive basics.
 
A hard disk drive, commonly known as HDD; hard drive, hard disk, or disk drive, is a device for storing and retrieving digital information, primarily computer data. It consists of one or more rigid (hence "hard") rapidly rotating discs often referred to as platters. Platters are coated with magnetic material and have magnetic heads arranged to write data to the surfaces and read it from them.

The hard drive was invented by IBM in 1956. The first IBM drive, the 350 RAMAC, was the size of two refrigerators and stored 5 million 6-bit characters on a stack of 50 discs. Sounds like alot but your TV remote stores more data than that now! Hard disk drives have decreased in cost and physical size over the years while dramatically increasing in capacity and speed.


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