A custom built computer system is a personal computer (PC) manually built from individual components and from scratch. A computer system is a collection of interconnected devices ranging from personal computers, a shared storage area, and peripheral devices namely scanners, printers, speakers e.t.c. working together to achieve a common goal. The various components are able to communicate though each PC operates independently (Berkeley, 1949, 65). A computer system has two major groups of components namely: external and internal components. Examples of principal external components include: mouse, printer, keyboard, and a monitor while major internal components include: the Central Processing Unit (CPU) which performs arithmetic and logic operations as well as tasks that makes the various programs run, Random Access Memory (RAM) which temporarily holds information used by the running programs and tasks (Ifrah, 2001, 41), Hard Disk Drive (HDD) which permanently stores data and information, Network Card which enables a PC to be connected to others and also to the Internet, and cables which carry power as well as enabling communication to various parts of the PC.
Diagrammatically, the major parts mentioned above are physically represented below.
Vidalis & Co hereafter referred to as the firm that will take advantage of this manual assembly to enjoy perfectly needed machine for its specific tasks and to always ensure that their needs are well catered for.
This report will specialize particularly in customized, special features which cannot be bought as a packaged computer system from manufacturers. The components are obtained from registered distributors, online vendors, computer stores and wholesalers. Preferably most components are obtained from online stores since they offer a wider variety than the others which specialize on already built PCs (Stokes, 2007, 65).
As a matter of fact, the requirements of the firm can be fulfilled by a pre-built PC, but a custom built PC would be practically cost effective while at the same time fully fulfilling the firm’s needs. Full documentation of the PC will be supplied to avoid difficulties of lack of technical support. Brooks (2005) concludes that “It is cheaper to build a PC than to purchase a pre-built equivalent.”
Nonetheless this custom built PC further seeks empowering the firm carry out its operations in a more streamlined manner and without failure while at the same time meeting all its (firm’s) requirements.
The firm will enjoy the following advantages from the custom built PC:
- The cost and quality will be well determined regarding what the firm wants.
- The PC will be customized to meet the firm’s exact requirements.
- Various components will be used thus the system will be of superior quality and loosely coupled.
- The firm will enjoy the features of superior PC to carry out demanding tasks such as routine office operations owing to the fact that slow processors and obsolete components are removed. A future modification of the PC to cater for requirements that crops up is easily possible.
- Intangibly a sense of accomplishment is obtained by having this custom built PC, getting rid of need to warranty protection since it has its own.
Technical Specifications and Building of the Custom PC
The choice of the Operating System is Windows XP, since it extensively uses graphical interfaces thus maximizing the firm’s system requirements of a graphically enabled PC.
The CPU is housed in one silicon chip referred to as a microprocessor rather than on many printed circuit boards. This choice is basically because the PC is a micro computer and not a large machine which may require the latter.
Below are the selected CPU detailed characteristics used.
- CPU type – Pentium IV desktop CPU of the Pentium series with no need for a Math Coprocessor since Pentium IV has the floating point handlers inbuilt. It also consumes less power thus no much cooling is needed.
- CPU brand – Intel, the company offers great products and this choice will not affect the motherboard compatibility. This CPU class is widely used thus very much commercially available. Its instruction set is compatible backwards with older PC components both software and hardware. Instruction set is a list of all operations a CPU can perform. Examples of such operations include adding, subtracting, comparing among others.
- Socket type – this is where the CPU is installed. The CPU and the motherboard socket types are compatible.
- Chip speed / Clock rate– 2400 MHz is equivalent to 2.4 GHz, which represents the speed at which the processor runs. It is the processor’s speed to execute instructions.
- Cache memory (L1) – An internal storage for most frequently used instructions as well as data, with a cache capacity of 256 Kb.
- Manufacturing technology used on processor – this is the size of the transistors used; a smaller number is used to reduce power consumption.
- Hyper-Transport (QPI) – the speed at which the CPU communicates with various components in the PC such as RAM. It is ensured that the speed is lower, or it meets the choice of the motherboard so that the motherboard functions with the CPU.
- Address bus – a bus which directs the information to the destined location, with a specification of 64 bits.
- Data bus – a bus which transfers information, with a specification of 64 bits.
- Transistors – 55,000,000 transistors.
The motherboard is a transplant that is well equipped to match the CPU processing ability and memory capability. The motherboard is of an older generation thus neither newer CPU nor newer RAM is required. The CPU, disk drives (hard disk, CD, DVD e.t.c), RAM, BIOS (Power management and boot firmware), and all other peripherals are connected by the motherboard via ports. There are also internal communication links (buses) that allows the CPU to connect to various internal components and to various expansion cards via slots. To cater for future peripheral and internal devices, PCI bus allows for expansion slots to carry expansion cards for graphics, LAN interfaces and sound. Further, to support external peripheral devices, external bus controllers are connected to the motherboard via the PCI bus. For example USB and FireWire ports.
The Hard Disk Drive (HDD) stores the data in a non-volatile manner and forms the secondary storage. The interface of choice is Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) because of its high speed as it uses serial communication. Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment (PATA) is slow as it uses parallel communication. The physical storage size as given by the manufacture Western Digital is 120 GB which is enough capacity for the firm’s tasks. The Floppy Disk Drive (FDD) is inbuilt in the computer case. Therefore, the HDD desirable to fit into this drive is of size 3.5 inches. This size is also very popular and readily available in the market. The full dimension is 4 inch *1 inch * 5.75 inches which is an equivalent of approximately 376.78 centimeters cubic. Slimline is the vendor and market name for this HDD and is very popular in desktops. It is also known to be expandable upto 4 Terabytes.
SATA drive is also the newest technology wise. It has a desirable transfer rates of 150 MB per second and even higher. This translates to high speed to access data and consequently superior overall PC performance. The firm’s is guaranteed of fast data transfer speed for its files such as huge databases or graphical and image documents.
This PC has replaced the Floppy Disk Drives (FDDs) with CD-ROM, DVD ROM, DVD-RW and CD-RW Disk Drives. FDDs are very slow and hold very low amount of data compared to CD-ROM, DVD ROM, DVD-RW and CD-RW Disk Drives. All the four forms are incorporated in the PC. In details, they are the CD-ROM, the ReWritable DVD-RW, the ReWritable CD-RW and the DVD ROM. The CD-ROM is read only and can hold upto 700 MB with a speed of 48X. The DVD-ROM is a special type of CD-ROM that is a Write Once Read Many (WORM) form. It can read a standard CD-ROM and additionally it can read a DVD-ROM. It is however more faster than a CD-ROM and has a storage capacity of up to 6.4 GigaBytes. A mpeg decoder card is also installed together with DVD drivers to enable viewing of digital data and movies on the PC.
A CD-RW allows the firm to record its data in the CDs of up to 800 MB and the writing speed is 48X. It can be used to make backups of the Management Information System (MIS), database and other application software.
A DVD-RW operates just like a CD-RW but has a much larger capacity. It has a speed of 2X. There is only one of each form to enable watching digital content and also allow backup of data, database and MIS.
The memory slots are 4, the memory size is 2048 MB RAM. The selected memory form is DRAM frequency of 2400.0 MHz to cater for extreme requirements and support multiple tasks required by a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME). However, it is upgradable up to a maximum memory size of 16 GB. DRAM is less expensive than SRAM thus it is the preferred choice in this PC. 2048 MB capacity is functional in this environment, limited RAM capacity causes a state of swapping whereby the hard disk is used as a supplementary memory. A hard disk uses movable mechanical parts thus accessing data from there would take a lot of time thus degrading the overall PC performance. To enhance performance the RAM has the same speed as the other PC components such as the CPU. There are also expansion slots in the motherboard of up to 16 GB to make the PC even faster.
Graphic cards are well incorporated to supplement the inbuilt video cards and are plugged into the motherboard to enhance display capabilities such as speeding up the display of graphics display. A high quality video card is incorporated to cater for the firm’s financial, accounting and other reports which may emphasize in image and graphical presentation.
The power supply unit converts alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) which is of low voltage. The choice is an automatic one that automatically switch between input and voltage. It is a Switch Mode Power Supplies that provides regulated DC at various voltages required by the pc accessories (such as disk drives, fans) and the motherboard.
Interfacing refers to planning for points of interactions between components for purposes of communication. Many hardware interfaces have been implemented to accommodate the components such as buses, input and output (I/O) devices and storage devices. In the design are both parallel and serial hardware interfaces. In software interfacing, pieces of software allow access to such computer resources as memory, storage, CPU, the OS and I/O devices in the underlying PC architecture. By default access to every resource is prohibited allowing only well-defined interactions through designated interfaces to minimize disastrous cases and maintain stability and functionality of the PC. Hennessey (2005) noted that “Interfacing forms an integral part in building up a computer from scratch.” SCSI interface allows users to have a large array of possible introduction of many more components and also allows flexibility. It also caters well for distanced components.
Tanenbaum (1979) stated that computer architecture is the practice of selecting, matching and interconnecting computer hardware components to create a computer that meet performance, cost and functional modeled goals of the PC. Primarily it is concerned with the way the CPU operates and how it accesses the primary memory. Brooks (2005) subsequently wrote “a computer architecture is the art of gathering the user needs of a structure and then designing and implementing the structure to effectively meet those needs within technological and economic constraints”. The architecture of choice is Von Neumann Architecture.
A software simulator will not be designed to test the PC architectural components to save time for writing programs to improve the Instruction Set Architecture (ISA). ISA interfaces between the hardware and software. In deeper terms, it encodes high level languages into binary commands which a processor can understand.
To overcome this, a readymade modern simulator is used to measure the clock speed and estimates in energy use.
The PC hardware components are well installed into a case on which Basic Input Output System (BIOS) and an OS are installed. These supports other application softwares that aids office personnel in carrying their tasks.
The whole PC is thoroughly tested to check whether it functions in all situations. Programs are run and necessary corrections made. All problems are fixed.
The firm also needs to take advantage of cloud computing. McCarthy (1960) noted that “computation may someday be organized as a public utility”. From this, a public utility is a resource such as electricity whereby a person who uses it does not care to know where it originates from as long as he is using it in his/her task(s). Grosch (1950) also foreseen the entire globe would one day operate on million terminals run by a very few centres of data. Cloud computing thus is the use of computing as a terminal sharing resources as a public utility over say the Internet. It is possible for the firm’s data, computation, storage devices and software to be spread globally wherein users utilize them with no knowledge of the actual location of these resources (Lavington 1998, 34). The users can make use of web browsers to access these resources. It has been made easier by building network interfaces and having inbuilt network cards which do not require much configurations to access the global resources over the Internet.
Owing to the evidence that the custom built PC has the above mentioned capabilities, it is highly recommended that Vidalis & Co adopt the PC instead of purchasing an off-the-shelf PC. In addition, there are many kinds of PCs readily available in the market but this customized PC has only those features that will handle the firm’s requirements.
The constraints and goals of this PC will exactly suit Vidalis & Co since it is the firm for which the PC was optimized. However, it should be known clear that the memory capacity, throughput and latency of this PC architecture was a trade off. Other than being cost-effective, it is highly reliable and can be easily modified in future to suit demanding and emerging tasks.