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What is a Hardware? – Definition, Types and More

Hardware Definition

In computing and informatics, it is known as hardware (union of the words of the English hard, rigid, and ware, product, merchandise) to the total of the material, tangible elements that form the computer system of a computer. This refers to its mechanical, electronic, electrical, and peripheral components, without considering the programs and other digital elements, which are instead part of the software.

Evaluation of Hardware

The use of the term hardware was in English from the 16th century. But to designate utensils and tools made from hard or heavy metals, such as iron, and which were used for hardware or mechanical work.

From the appearance of the first automatic calculation systems in the 1940s and the first steps towards computerized calculation, it became necessary to distinguish between the physical aspects of the machine and those that belonged to the logical or, more recently, the virtual, reason why the term hardware was rescued from 1947.

The apply of the term is in English and other languages without translation. Since there is no equivalent, and it has also become a word in common use in today’s hypercomputerized world.

There are four different generations of hardware, throughout its evolutionary history, determined by a key
a technological advance that made them possible:

  • 1st generation (1945-1956): Calculation machines operated by vacuum tubes, instead of relays.
  • 2nd generation (1957-1963): Thanks to the discovery of transistors, the significant reduction of the overall size of computers
  • 3rd generation (1964-today): The discovery of the Integration of circuits, printed on silicon chips, which provided speed and effectiveness.
  • 4th generation (future): Devices that overcome silicon plates and dabble in new computing formats. It is a technology still under development.


The hardware of computer systems is classified according to its performance in the set, thus identifying five different categories:


The heart itself of the system or the computer is where its capacity to carry out logical operations resides, that is, its calculations. The identification of it is with the Central Processing Unit or CPU.


The “memory” of the system, are units that allow for safeguarding the information and recovering it later, both on internal media inside the body of the machine, or on removable and portable media, such as floppy disks.

Input Peripherals

These are devices with a specific function: to enter information into the system. They can integrate into the machine or be removable.

Output Peripherals

Similar to input, but allow to extract or retrieve information from the system.

Input and Output Peripherals

They combine the information input and output functions of the system.

Hardware Examples

Some simple hardware examples are:

  • Microprocessors, motherboards, integrated cards (audio, video, etc.).
  • Monitors and projectors (video beam, etc.).
  • And also, printers, scanners, and other external peripherals.
  • The keyboard and the mouse pointer with which the user communicates with the machine.
  • In addition, the modules of RAM in the CPU.
  • The batteries that keep the system on, and the wiring that connects the parts.
  • Hard drives and removable memory drives (flash).

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