Difference between primary hardware and peripheral hardware

Simple explanation of what is the hardware of a computer or computer, the different generations and the main classifications.

They are all the physical parts, therefore tangible, of a computer equipment. The electronic components, the cables, the tower or chassis, the peripherals and any physical component are part of the hardware. These can be divided into two categories: internal hardware, which is all that component that is inside the chassis and peripheral hardware, which is any external component that allows interaction with the system.

This term has become very common and has even been accepted by the Royal Spanish Academy, which defines it as: "Set of components that make up the material part of a computer"

In addition to for denominate as hardware to the components of a computer, it also applies to other technological products such as robots, mobile phones, cameras, electronic tablets, digital players and in general any electronic device. For any of these to work properly, firmware and / or software is required for the components to interact and / or to be able to interact with them.

Hardware history

We can catalog the hardware in several groups or generations, according to its most elementary construction. The fundamental electronic components of a computer have undergone important modifications over time. Thus, hardware can be classified into three major generations according to transcendental changes. The three main generations are the following, plus one to come:

  • First generation (1945-1956): The basic electronics were based on vacuum tubes. They were highly expensive machines and could take up a large amount of space.
  • Second generation (1957-1963): It was a huge leap at the electronic level, replacing the vacuum tubes with transistors, which are smaller and more efficient.
  • Third generation (1964-present): We went from transistors to integrated circuits. Integration of tens of millions of transistors and other electronic components in a silicon-based integrated circuit. This has made it possible to reduce the size, cost and consumption of computers significantly, while increasing speed and reliability.
  • Fourth generation (future): Work is currently under way on the next generation of computer equipment that will be based on quantum computing. There are years before this new leap in computing reaches the domestic market.

Difference between primary hardware and peripheral hardware

Computer components can be divided into two categories: primary hardware and peripheral hardware. El primary hardware is everyone building block necessary for the equipment to function. El peripheral hardware is all that component that connects to primary hardware and interacts with it.

Components that make up the primary hardware

Processor or CPU (Central Processing Unit)

Un microprocessor or Central Processing Unit it is the most important component of a computer. Has the mission of interpret the data, execute the instructions, and process the data. They are based on silicon and are known for short as a processor. Currently processors can have a large number of cores and are complemented by processing threads, which allow the processor to improve performance.

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We can find it also as cooler or refrigerator. It is required in processors and graphics cards to dissipate the heat they generate. We can find it passive, which is a block of copper or aluminum no forced ventilation. Can be active which is based on a block of aluminum fins traversed by heatpipes supplemented with a fan to improve dissipation. Additionally there is more advanced systems such as liquid cooling or extreme systems like dry ice or liquid nitrogen.

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It is also known as motherboard (especially in Latin America) main board, motherboard or mainboard. It is basically a printed circuit that communicates to all components. It usually has the processor socket, for an chipset which helps the processor by controlling all the components, the RAM, expansion slots and the different I / O ports. It performs the function of supporting and communicating all the components through a set of buses that transmit information in both the primary components and the peripherals.



Is the random access memory (Random Access Memory or RAM), which is also known as main memory, is a set of chips that store information. It is used by the processor to store information temporarily and that you can access quite quickly. It is also characterized by being a type of volatile memory Or what is the same, when it stops receiving voltage the information is erased.

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Storage drive or hard drive

Physical support where data is stored continuously even if the electrical voltage is lost. Currently we can find the mechanical hard drives (HDD) that are based on one or more discs that rotate on an axis at a certain speed inside a sealed metal box. They have heads that read information recorded magnetically. While on the other hand we have the solid state hard drives (SSD) which are based on non-volatile flash memory chips.

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Fuente de alimentación

Component responsible for offering the different voltages necessary for the system and the current necessary for its operation. They transform alternating current from the power grid in direct current so that the system can work. They are also often referred to as power supply or power suply unit (PSU). The best ones usually carry 80Plus efficiency certification and different protections to safeguard the rest of the components.

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Sound card

Currently this type of cards already comes integrated into the motherboard and it is the one that allows sound reproduction. This is controlled by a specific software such as the sound driver. Although modern motherboards already integrate the sound card, they are usually sold separately for sound lovers. The most important element of these cards is the DAC, which is responsible for the conversion of digital files housed in our system into analog signals that can be reproduced by speakers or headphones.

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Graphics card or GPU (Graphic Processor Unit)

They are video cards specially designed for offer video output and image rendering. Many processors integrate them, but they are very discreet and are hardly capable of moving games, so we can also find dedicated graphics. These connect to the motherboard through the expansion ports and offer great computing power. Besides for games, it is also sare used for photo and video editing or for advanced computer systems, like geometric calculations, mapped and Artificial Intelligence.

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Robert Sole

Director of Contents and Writing of this same website, technician in renewable energy generation systems and low voltage electrical technician. I work in front of a PC, in my free time I am in front of a PC and when I leave the house I am glued to the screen of my smartphone. Every morning when I wake up I walk across the Stargate to make some coffee and start watching YouTube videos. I once saw a dragon ... or was it a Dragonite?

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