To the older generation, this term always meant anything from a hammer and some nails or the timber and screws required to build a bookshelf to a set of spanners with which to perform routine maintenance jobs on the family vehicle.
In the computer world , 'hardware' means anything to do with computing that you can actually see with the naked eye and touch with a human hand.
The basic hardware required to get started is a computer, a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse.
A 'laptop' or 'notebook', in other words a
portable computer, contains all those elements in one casing.
A 'PC', or personal computer, also known as a 'desktop' computer, requires a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse to be acquired and attached to it for the owner to be able to use it. One can choose between 'wireless' models and ones that must be connected by means of cables. Most outlets package the four items together and some add audio speakers and other goodies to the deal.
A compact disc player or 'CD Rom' is included in all but the most antiquated models you will see still in use today, many have a DVD Rom instead and it is not unusual for a modern computer to come equipped with a CD or DVD writer, or 'burner', so called because data is imprinted on the surface of a blank disc by means of laser 'burning'.
For ordinary access to the Internet, a modem or LAN card is needed and for 'broadband' access, whether wireless or via cables, either an 'ADSL kit' or a 'router' is required, a modem often being included with both items and now satellite access to the Internet is fast becoming a practical reality.
Peripheral hardware includes the 'scanner', the 'printer' and the 'fax' machine, often all three being presented as a 'combination' in a single piece of equipment.
This page of explanations, entitled Understanding Your Hardware
by Sharon Centanne is rather good...
...as is Hardware Book...
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