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Peripherals Page

Peripherals are the parts of a computer that make it worthwhile. A computer will boot up without a keyboard, monitor, mouse, joystick, printer or anything but power. To make use of your personal computer you want to tell it what to do and know it is doing what you tell it to do!

A basic computer has a monitor, keyboard, printer, mouse and joystick. These are called peripherals because they are outside of the computer case. Memory, processor and expansion cards are internal to the case (to cite the opposite). These devices all connect to the computer and get data from the computer, send data to the computer or do both.

Each peripheral connects to the computer by a data cable. That data cable plugs into a controller card which in turn is plugged in to an expansion slot. Typical expansion boards are a multiple input/output board (multi I/O), graphics adapter (monochrome, CGA, EGA, VGA or SVGA), sound card and scanner card.

The keyboard is the one constant exception to this rule. It connects directly to the motherboard. Similarly, on newer motherboards may be connectors for any common peripheral. Dual IDE ports connect via ribbon cable to up to four hard drives and/or CD-ROM's (IDE devices), two serial and one parallel port. On some old Tandy machines are CGA connectors and on some computers there are VGA connectors.

Keyboards may be large or small, have 84, 101 or more keys. Others have trackballs attached, glidepoints or other pointing devices. Macro keyboards store series of keystrokes, making repetitive typing tasks go quicker. There is the standard, round DIN plug, a mini-DIN and a plug that looks like a phone plug but with an ear on each end. Some even have keys missing and you have to reach deep and press against the actual button. Several "ergonomic" keyboards look like they are about to give birth to young or are split in two! Some keys click, some are stiff and eventually most get sticky, though this is through use.

What is important is that it works with you and your system. Again, 84-key keyboards are for old XT computers and will not work on AT computers. The reverse is also true, but some are switchable. Try out the feel of a keyboard in the store before ever buying it.


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Updated January 24, 1998, 10:52pm. shawn_h@sprynet.com