How Computers, Phones, and Tablets Work

Today, most readers have several computers, although they may not think of them as computers. Every smartphone is a small computer more powerful than a desktop computer 15 years ago, but this computer has been programmed to make phone calls and appear to the user as a consumer device. Discussing all your computers in one article makes the subject matter a bit more complicated, but it also provides some useful contrasts. Showing the differences between full personal computers (PC, Mac, or Linux) and mobile devices (phones and tablets) allows you to understand both platforms better than discussing devices that all do the same thing in the same way.

This is a revision of the Understanding PC Hardware article that first appeared in PCLT in 1994, when computers were all desktop units with Pentium CPUs and 4 megs of memory. That article was updated each year with new technology, but the new environment of computing and networking everywhere requires radically rethinking that structure.

It is still true that this new article will tell you some things you don’t need to know in order to use the devices, but understanding how they work will make you more confident and demistify some of the technical jargon to which you are exposed. You will learn here how it works and what it really means.