When people think of a personal computer they think of the big pieces they can lay their hands on. This includes the monitor, the CPU chassis, the mouse and the keyboard.

Computer Monitor

The computer monitor is the piece of equipment that the computer uses to display text and images. Computer monitors are either a cathode ray tube design (shown here) or a flat panel design, sometimes called an LCD. The LCD is shown on the right, the cathode ray tube design is shown on the left. Cathod ray tube based monitors are better for high-end video, photo editing and 3D graphics. LCD displays are better for general home and office computing use. Monitors are expensive, flat panels are getting cheaper by the day.


Computer Chassis or Computer Case

The 'guts' of the computer are in the computer case. There are two basic types of personal computer case designs, desktops and towers. On the left we see a desktop design. Its called a desktop design because it sits on top of the desk. One of the more recent developments is to size a computer chassis so it fits in a rack of entertainment equipment. These are called Home Theater PC (HTPC) cases or 'media center' cases.

Here is the second kind of personal computer chassis or computer case design, the tower design. The tower sits on the floor under the desk, usually. There are several sizes of tower computers:

  • Tower
  • Mid-Tower (full size ATX and micro ATX motherboards)
  • Mini Tower (micro ATX motherboards only)

The size of the computer case determines the form factor of the motherboard that will fit inside the computer case.

The Keyboard

The next item people think of is the keyboard. The keyboard provides the ability to input text to the computer. There are many different keyboard designs with all kinds of nifty functions.

The most common keyboard layout is the QWERTY (pictured here) layout, so-named because the first six characters across the top of the keyboard are QWERTY. There is also the DVORAK keyboard layout, which was patented in 1936 by August Dvorak which is supposed to allow faster typing rates, but since most people learn and use the QWERTY layout first, they have to un-learn QWERTY to use Dvorak, so it's not very popular, aside from being more expensive because fewer of them are made.

Your keyboard doesn't actually generate the characeters, it generates a keypress value which the computer translates into characters on the screen, so you can change your keyboard layout any time, it just won't match the lables on your keys.

The Mouse

Last, but certainly not least is the mouse. The mouse is what you use to point-and-click, but then if you're surfing this web page, odds are, you already know what a mouse is and what it does. There are several types of mice out there based on how the mice is plugged into the computer and whether it uses a wire.

  • PS2 Wired Mouse
  • USB Wired Mouse
  • USB Wireless Mouse

Next, there are different kinds of mice based on how the mouse actually works:

  • Ball mouse (uses an internal ball and rollers to detect movement)
  • Laser mouse (uses an internal LED to detect the surface under the mouse)


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