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How Computers Work: The Evolution of Technology, Tenth Edition by Timothy Edward Downs, Ron White

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Chapter 9. The Origins of Computer DNA

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Just as we carbon-based units have an ancestry that began some hundreds of thousands of years ago, computing has an ancestry—not nearly as long, but just as important when it comes to understanding the workings of the digital machines we use today. Some of the nomenclature doesn’t make sense without knowing a word’s genealogy. Hard drives are so named because they evolved from something we rarely see today, a floppy drive. Why are CDs called “compact” discs? Because they are the offspring of video discs the size of LP-sized vinyl records.

Random access memory (RAM) seems like an unnecessary term. First of ...

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