When most of us think of computers, we think of a Personal Computer, or PC, basically a home or work computer designed for an individual user. Today, computers include PCs, laptops, netbooks, tablets and smartphones.

Regardless of size, computers all share the same makeup. A computer is simply a programmable machine. Information, or data, can be input, stored, manipulated and output in a meaningful manner through it.

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the brain of the computer. This is where the computer executes commands and makes calculations. The CPU is considered the most important part of a computer system and is housed in a chip called a "microprocessor," or "processor."

Hardware is the term used to describe the housing for the CPU as well as for the external parts of the computer including the monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Computers work by executing sets of instructions called programs.

These programs are stored in the computer's memory and tell the computer what tasks to perform.

The processor and memory play a role in how fast a computer runs and what it can store. Applications, or software programs, enable the computer to do different tasks. We'll explain each of these in more depth.