Hamster Republic -> James -> Technomancy

Have you ever wondered how your computer works? It is so fascinatingly mysterious. All you do is type, or point and click, and inside a million little things happen, and stuff just appears on the screen. But how? The purpose of this article is to teach you, in simple terms, exactly what is really going on inside your computer.

[Howzit Work!?]

The first computers were machines. Punch cards, vacuum tubes, and big rooms filled with wires. They could do math at high speed, count things, and sort records, but that was about all. A long way from modern computers, eh? That's because today, computers aren't machines, they are magic. A modern computer is a magic box filled with ceremonial components that traps in a little evil spirit who is forced to work for you.

That's Not True!
Yes, its really true. Your computer may resemble an appliance in many ways; You have to plug it in... it is roughly box shaped... and, well, the similarity to the other appliances in your house stops there, doesn't it? Computers are marketed as machines, and there are many people who base their whole careers around supporting that claim. A machine, however complex it may be, is something that you can break down into its component parts if you are smart enough, until you can actually understand how it works from the ground up. Not so with computers. Many computer experts will claim to understand how computers work, but if you ever ask one to explain it to you, they will probably start telling you something like this:

"The key point to understanding how a computer works is the concept of abstraction, that there are a multitude of layers of functionality that are built upon each other like bricks in a tower. Semiconductors are etched and treated (or "doped") to form circuits that redirect electrons in specific patterns. These circuits are packaged as ASIC's and Microprocessors (called "chips") and interconnected by buses and traces on a PCB (called a motherboard) in order to implement machine code. Then other PCB's which are designed to comply to some physical interface standard (eg. ATA, AGP, PCI) are inserted into the motherboard, where the Microprocessor can interact with them. These boards are managed by sets of machine code called device drivers (eg. VXD, WDM, SYS) which run in a specially privileged execution mode (e.g. kernel mode, ring 0) designed to allow the OS to manage these. Then as other blocks of machine code called applications and processes run on your system and call the OS API in order to use the system devices, the OS takes turns processing each requests to share devices. When multiple computers are connected across large networks to share processing and data, centralized software components on a server (e.g. COM, RPC, Quake 3) process remote requests. In this way, each layer provides a service to the layer above and below it to make the amazing machine we call the 'Personal Computer'"
               -Anonymous Intel Engineer
See? Obviously, he doesn't know how a computer works, but his job depends on people believing that he does.

When you look at your computer honestly, and accept the fact that it is magic, everything becomes easier to understand. It's no longer necessary to be well educated about your computer. You don't have to take classes, or buy books, you don't even have to be computer literate. With the proper attitude, anyone can use, maintain, even repair a computer. Just bear these simple principles in mind:

The Future of Computing
Throw away your MS Office 2000 for Dummies book. Throw away your Learning Java book. The future of computing is not in Data Processing, or Programming, or Information Systems, or Computer Science. It's in Technomancy. Technomancy is the magical art of talking with computers. There are many newly developing fields of technomancy that you can apprentice in to earn big bucks when the false machine-based-culture of the computer world crumbles

How To Kill A Computer
We all know you can kill a Vampire with a wooden stake, or a Werewolf with a silver bullet, but how do you kill a computer? Computers are malevolent presences of evil, and the fact that we have domesticated them and locked them in pretty white (grey, black, fruity-translucent) boxes doesn't change that fact. What if your computer goes berserk? Are you prepared to defend your home and family against it? Could you protect your employees if the company server started stomping on them, or sucking their blood? It's not something many of us have contingency plans for, but believe me, your insurance carrier isn't going to cover it.

©2001-2006 James Paige
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

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