Von Neumann architecture
The template for all modern computers is the Von Neumann architecture, detailed in a 1945 paper by Hungarian mathematician John von Neumann. This describes a design architecture for an electronic digital computer with subdivisions of a processing unit consisting of an arithmetic logic unit and processor registers, a control unit containing an instruction register and program counter, a memory to store both data and instructions, external mass storage, and input and output mechanisms. The meaning of the term has evolved to mean a stored-program computer in which an instruction fetch and a data operation cannot occur at the same time because they share a common bus. This is referred to as the Von Neumann bottleneck and often limits the performance of the system.
The personal computer, also known as the PC, is one of the most common types of computer due to its versatility and relatively low price. Laptops are generally very similar, although may use lower-power or reduced size components.
The computer case
The computer case is a plastic or metal enclosure that houses most of the components. Those found on desktop computers are usually small enough to fit under a desk, however in recent years more compact designs have become more common place, such as the all-in-one style designs from Apple, namely the iMac. Laptops are computers that usually come in a clamshell form factor, again however in more recent years deviations from this form factor have started to emerge such as laptops that have a detachable screen that become tablet computers in their own right.
Hardware is the collection of physical elements that constitutes a computer system. Computer hardware refers to the physical parts or components of a computer such as the monitor, mouse, keyboard, computer data storage, hard drive disk (HDD), system unit (graphic cards, sound cards, memory, motherboard and chips), etc. all of which are physical objects that can be touched (known as tangible). In contrast, software is instructions that can be stored and run by hardware.
Software is any set of machine-readable instructions that directs a computer's processor to perform specific operations. A combination of hardware and software forms a usable computing system.