Sponsored By The Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation

Computers: Top 10 Questions

September 2016

Thanks to Thanks to Tim Andersen, Chair of the Department of Computer Sciences, Boise State University, and Flossie Erben, Firmware Program Manager, Hewlett-Packard for their answers. for the answers.

1: How do computers work?

Computers have a central processing unit that takes all the information and processes it. Memory is attached to that, and this is where computers get memory from and instructions on what to do with that memory. Computers also have a hard drive that stores even more information. A keyboard and a mouse allow people to interact with computers, and monitors let people see stuff. (From Anabella at Liberty Elementary School in Boise)

2: What is code?

Code is the way engineers tell the computer what to do. It is a form of instruction and there are different languages that can be used. Code is how the computer programmer tells the computer exactly what to do and in what order. (From Colton at Challenger School in Meridian)

3: Do computers have gears?

Computers used to have gears, but as they've advanced, those gears have gone away. A DVD drive can have gears in it and a robotic computer may have gears. Otherwise, just older computers have gears. (From Parker at Whitney Elementary School in Boise)

4: How are computers made?

A computer has many parts. Some of the parts and pieces are the computer circuits, fans, cables, chips, and the outside covers that the computers are housed in. All of these components are built separately and put together on a manufacturing line, just like how a car is built. (From Nora at West Park Elementary School in Moscow)

5: How does a computer's memory work?

The main memory of a computer works by storing charge. There are different areas of the memory where you can store either the presence of electrical charge, or the absence of it. If it is there, the stored charge gets a value of one at that location. If it is not at that location, it gets a value of zero. There are billions of these locations on a memory chip. (From Jackson at Mount Parnassus Classical Academy in Boise)

6: How does Google work?

Google is a search engine program. When you are looking for something, Google goes through all of the different internet sites and websites looking for specific keywords that you are interested in. It's just like when you are driving around looking for a pizza restaurant, you would look for a sign that says pizza. Google works much the same way. It looks for the specific words and then brings them up in a list for you to look at. (From Caden at Whitney Elementary School in Boise)

7: What is a computer virus?

A computer virus is a small computer program that tries to take over your machine and then monitors what you are doing. You don't want it to do that. Usually, it does this by inserting itself into another computer program on your machine and tries to find one that has low level access, or unrestricted access, to all the parts of your computer. It then takes control. To avoid this you want to make sure you have the latest antivirus software installed on your computer. You should also avoid going to websites that aren't very good and downloading applications and installing them without understanding where you are getting them from. (From Silas at Horizon Elementary School in Boise)

8: What is the most powerful computer?

Currently, the most powerful super computer is located in China and it's called the Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer. It can perform 93 quadrillion calculations (called petaflops) per second. This means it can take two numbers and multiply them together 93 quadrillion times in a second. (From Drake at Pioneer Elementary School in Boise)

9: How do messages travel through computers?

Messages travel through computers via the network. A network is very similar to our highways. So when you have an address, like an email address, information goes through the network to the correct address traveling through stations along the way that direct it to where it needs to go. (From Josie at Liberty Elementary School in Boise)

10: Is it difficult to make a computer circuit?

Yes, it is difficult to make a computer circuit. To make one, companies have to put in place billions of dollars worth of infrastructure. Once they do that, it becomes easy. If you have the infrastructure in place, you can make computer circuits for very little money. (From Ava at Taft Elementary School in Boise)

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