Hardware is the physical, tangible components of a computer or other electronic device. The term hardware traditionally refers to the physical components of any technology, which is paired with human or animal power and skill to perform it's function. Computer hardware is usually paired with software to perform it's function, and the two together are referred to as a computer system. The first hardware considered to be useful for computations was the tally stick, in use from about 35,000 BC until the mid 20th century. The first hardware that received instructions from software was probably the Jacquard loom in the early 19th century.
Personal computer hardware consists of all electronic parts, with the exception of the enclosure case. Hardware found in all desktop and laptop personal computers include the motherboard, at least one processor, memory, storage, an output device such as a monitor, and at least one input device such as a keyboard or mouse. All cables, connectors, fans, and other tangible components are considered hardware as well. Although most desktop computers can be readily disassembled into the individual hardware components, many laptops have two or more components assembled in a way that makes separation difficult or impossible. Laptop processors, for example, are often soldered onto the motherboard.
Embedded systems and other electronic devices may use specialized hardware that is not compatible with other similar systems, alternatively they may use generic, standardized hardware. Portable media players such as the iPod usually have proprietary casings, screens, and circuitry. However, the storage facilities of most portable media players are standard flash memory or hard drives that can be exchanged between models. The hardware inside a wristwatch will almost always be proprietary, however many watches use the same batteries and standardized fittings for the wristband. Automobile computers often use almost identical cases and internal circuitry within each manufacturer, however the onboard software and wiring harness is different across models.
Hardware Terminology Questions