Personal computers have advanced to the point where they can do millions or even billions of calculations per second. Yet, they are virtually useless without an assortment of peripheral devices. These additions are connected to the computer in some way, yet are not part of the computer's core. Dozens of computer peripherals exist, though only a handful are considered vital to the machine's functionality.
Next to the computer itself, the monitor is the most important piece of equipment necessary for a user to operate the machine. The monitor is used to display the results of the computer's complex calculations. It is usually connected to the computer tower using a special cable that contains small screws which are twisted to ensure a tight connection.
The mouse device is used primarily to move the on-screen cursor, allowing the user to click confirmation boxes, access icons on the screen and select groups of text for cutting, pasting or other duties. A mouse can connect to the computer core through a hard-wire cord. It also can be connected wirelessly by using an adapter which plugs into the computer via a USB adapter and sends signals to the mouse, allowing it to work without a cord.
The keyboard allows the user to input text which can be used to instruct the computer to complete any number of tasks. English-language keyboards come complete with the full alphabet and number set, with special characters available to those who might need to add accents or other features to their text. Modern keyboards also come equipped with special buttons located outside the normal keys that control email function, volume and the computer's main media player. Like mouse devices, keyboards are connected either through a hard wire or via a USB adapter.
The printer isn't considered a critical computer peripheral, but is useful for its ability to allow the user to print out important documents. Modern printers have the ability to also make photocopies, scan copies of documents into the computer or send faxes. Printers use elaborate connectors similar to the ones employed by monitors, though certain models also can be connected wirelessly through the installation of the proper device drivers.
Webcams allow users to take pictures or videos of themselves and transmit them onto their computers. Webcams have the ability to broadcast live to other users through online video sites or chat rooms. Webcams connect through a hard wire or through a wireless connection via a USB adapter. In some modern laptop and netbook computers, small webcams are built into the top of the screen.
External speakers give the user a more complete listening experience---foregoing a reliance on a computer's internal speakers, which don't carry sound well. These devices are ideal for those who want to listen to music, movies or video game effects on their computer without having to make do with the internal speakers, or plugging in a set of headphones. Speakers can be connected either directly into the computer's casing, or through a sub-woofer, a device which produces low bass frequencies.
- Photo Credit Keyboard image by S.Q T from Fotolia.com
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