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What is hardware?

Hardware is the physical, tangible part of a computer system, as well as all the peripheral elements that make it up. Although the word is often associated with computers, hardware can also include any other electronic equipment such as mobile phones, cameras, kitchen robots, and more. In addition, there are components such as cables, fans, mice, and keyboards that are considered peripheral hardware.

How can hardware be classified?

Hardware can be classified into two broad categories:

  • Basic: made up of all the essential components to give the electronic equipment basic functionality. Without these, the hardware of a computer or electronic equipment would be incomplete and therefore not useful.
  • Complementary: made up of components that perform a very specific function but are not really indispensable for the proper functioning of the computer.

What are the types of hardware according to their function?

1. Processing: the CPU (Central Processing Unit), that is, the core of the physical unit that offers the system’s processing capacity.

2. Storage: responsible for storing data. It may be internal, secondary, or removable, such as hard drives or USB sticks.

3. Peripheral: the accessories added to the main hardware to provide new functions. They can be input (allowing data to be entered into the system, such as a keyboard, mouse, or microphone) or output (allowing data to be extracted from the system, such as a printer or projector).

4. Mixed: combines data input and output, such as smartphones.

What are some common examples of hardware?

Now that we know the main characteristics of hardware and its classification according to its purposes and function, some examples include:

  • Motherboard: the common element through which the other components of any electronic equipment are connected to make it useful. For computers, all internal components are connected to the motherboard through different ports.
  • Monitor or screen: where the information is shown to users.
  • Network card: electronic circuits present in the CPU board that let the computer interact with remote data networks.
  • Printer: peripheral hardware that converts digital information to paper.
  • Random Access Memory (RAM): the primary memory any computer system uses; it stores information that can be accessed quickly.
  • Camera: allows image capture.
  • Modem: offers communication and data transmission for connection with external computer networks.
  • Pen drive: peripheral memory hardware that is useful for quickly transferring information from the internal memory of one system to another. Connects to USB ports.

What is free hardware, and what projects are there around this concept?

The idea of free hardware first came up in 1975 at the American club Homebrew Computer, led by Gordon French and Fred Moore. This duo of electronics fans proposed creating designs that other people could modify to give them a new function or utility. This is known as DIY electronics.

These are some of the projects that, along with the free software approaches, are aimed at this line of thought:

This is an open hardware mobile robot designed at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne for academic purposes, though the scientific community has used it for research in collective, evolutionary, and artistic robotics. 

This project proposes developing a set of industrial machinery with universal access with the aim of generating the least possible environmental impact. It was led by a group of farmers and engineers to build the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS).

This is the Open Motors initiative, developed in 1999 to design an electric car using only open source tools. To this end, various professionals (engineers, manufacturers, industrial designers, etc.) were provided with various vehicle components for manufacture.

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