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Chapter 37. Ports & Peripherals > What is a Peripheral?

What is a Peripheral?

A peripheral is any item (or “device”) that is outside of the main computer box, but attached to it. Your monitor (except for iMacs) is actually a peripheral device, and so are your mouse, keyboard, and printer. Scanners, many CD writers, and external hard disks are peripherals. Devices that are internal (built in) on some machines might be external devices, or peripherals, on another. For instance, I have a little, lightweight PowerBook that has no built-in CD drive, but I bought an external CD drive that I can attach when I need it, so that CD drive is a peripheral. Many computers have built-in modems, others use modems as peripheral devices.

The main computer box is often called a CPU, although the CPU itself is actually a tiny chip in the middle of the main board (the motherboard) inside the box. So a CPU is not a peripheral. You might install a card (plastic board with circuitry on it) inside of your computer to expand its capabilities, such as a video card or a modem card. Some people consider that the devices on those cards are also peripherals because they are added on, even though they are in the computer box. (But isn’t “internal peripheral” an oxymoron?)


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