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Librarian Conducts Computer Autopsy at Northside Library

At one of two Oct. 20 Computer Autopsy Programs at Northside Library, Teen Librarian Rachel Hughes wore blue medical scrubs as she dissected two old computers from Central Park Library. Hughes projected the contents of each computer onto a big screen for her audience of second to fourth graders.

“When I was younger, the thing that helped me learn how a computer worked the most was the time I helped my brother build a computer,” said Hughes, who minored in Computer Science in college. “So breaking it down for kids, it might help them understand what it means when someone says ‘oh, there’s not enough memory,’ or ‘my video card needs to be updated.’ This could be a fun way for kids to learn what a computer is exactly.”

Hughes wore gloves as she took apart each computer tower, a feature associated with older, bulkier computers. After describing the function of various computer parts, Hughes passed around these parts. Comparing the computer to a living body, Hughes and her audience likened the CPU (Central Processing Unit) to the brain, the motherboard to the heart and the power supply to the food a computer needed to run.


Hughes also showed how the RAM (Random Access Memory) and CPU are latched onto the motherboard. Hughes pointed out that the graphics card takes pressure off the CPU and decides what the images should look like. She identified a couple of heat sinks that pull the heat off the CPU so the CPU doesn’t overheat. Then, she drew attention to the optics drive, which houses the CD and DVD player. She explained that there is a laser in the optics drive that reads the disk.

Hughes emphasized the function of two sets of wires.

“That’s the DVD drive. It’s got two sets of wires,” Hughes said. “What are the wires for? Energy and data. This one — what’s it connected to? Yes, it’s connected to the power supply. What about this one? Data. It’s connected to the motherboard.”


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