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Computer science from A to Z

H is for Horology (Clocks)

© INRIA Sophie Auvin - H comme Horloge

Like a symphony orchestra, a computer system is composed of very varied elements: processors to process information, memories to record it, interfaces to communicate with the outside world, etc.

And the "conductor" of a computer is its clock.

The quality of a computer, like that of an orchestra, depends as much on the instruments themselves as it does on good coordination among them. Thus, the clock ensures harmonious cooperation between all of the electronic components by emitting electrical impulses at regular intervals.

But if we want to improve performances, it is not enough simply to speed up the rhythm of the music: the most important thing to do is improve the components so that they can keep up with this rhythm. For some applications, researchers replace general-purpose processors with specific components which are more limited but faster. Our computers can sometimes benefit from such technical adjustments, one example being graphics cards especially for video games.

Did you know...?

© INRIA / Sophie Chauvin - Horloge

Another way of improving a computer's performance levels is to have several processors working simultaneously.

These computing methods, known as parallel computing, require even more attentive synchronisation of the different tasks; they are used in supercomputers or in grids which perform the most demanding scientific simulations.

Keywords: Computer science from A to Z Science awareness