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A mouse is an input device.

Hardware Components

components of a computer system

The terms input and output say if data flow into or out of the computer. The picture shows the major hardware components of a computer system. The arrows show the direction of data flow.

A bus is a group of wires on the main circuit board of the computer. It is a pathway for data flowing between components. Most devices are connected to the bus through a controller which coordinates the activities of the device with the bus.

The processor is an electronic device about a one inch square, covered in plastic. Inside the square is an even smaller square of silicon containing millions of tiny electrical parts. A modern processor may contain billions of transistors. It does the fundamental computing within the system, and directly or indirectly controls all the other components.

The processor is sometimes called the Central Processing Unit or CPU. A particular computer will have a particular type of processor, such as a Pentium processor or a SPARC processor.


A modern processor chip (in 2014) may have up to 2.5 billion transistors.

How many transistors do you think the first commercial processor chip had in 1971? Click on a guess: