Motherboards: The Heart and Head of Your Computer
Computer motherboards are absolutely crucial to the operation of a computer, and without them it would be almost impossible to store, access, and manipulate data with nearly the same efficiency that we can today. The name "motherboard" is incredibly appropriate, seeing as how almost every other component of the computer is in some way connected to it and all are reliant on it.
Motherboards are printed circuit boards found in computers, which means that it electronically connects various parts of a computer through conductive tracks that have been physically printed on the board itself. As different items are attached to input locations on the board, data in the form of electricity can be transferred to it, giving it commands so that it works in conjunction with all of the rest of the components. The motherboard is very much a way of regulating how everything in the computer works together to provide the screen that is most likely being read this very moment, among other tasks. And as such, it has a number of different parts and pieces.
The CPU is the part of the computer that does all of the hard math that is involved in running a computer. All of the calculations that are done millions of times per second happen there, so it needs a way to both get power and receive commands as to what calculations it should be running. That's why motherboards are generally equipped with CPU sockets.
A CPU socket is a component on the motherboard that provides a mechanical and electrical connection to the motherboard and, therefore, to the other parts of the computer. It's there so that the CPU doesn't have to be soldered to the board in order to work. Usually, it is made so that latches keep the CPU firmly in place without breaking it as well as prevent the pins from bending.
As has been mentioned, the motherboard controls a number of different devices that are connected to it. These are often called integrated peripherals. A peripheral is connected to a computer, but does not form part of the computer's architecture, which means that if it were missing, the computer would still be able to perform its core functionality.
An integrated peripheral is one of these things that is not a part of the core functionality of the computer, but has been added to the motherboard to make it easier to use. These often include things like USB ports, onboard LAN, built-in video or audio cards, and even built-in modems.
With so many things attached to the motherboard, what does the ultimate controlling of it? That would be the BIOS. Standing for Basic Input/Output System, this bit of firmware is the first program that is run when the computer is booted up. It initializes and tests the system hardware, controls power usage in many cases, and starts the bootloader or operating system. The BIOS is in control of what order things boot up in, what devices can and can't be used, the temperature your computer can reach, and even how fast your processor actually works.
Originally, there was no way to access that program directly, and instead a number of difficult MS-DOS commands were necessary. These days, you can access the hardware controls by simply pressing a button at startup.
The motherboard is the computer component that is most necessary to actually making a computer work the way it does. A quality one can get you years of good service out of a laptop or desktop.