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We use computers for all kinds of things, like talking to our friends, doing our homework, and watching SciShow Kids! But have you ever wondered how computers can do all of this cool stuff?

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 Main Episode (0:06)

If you're watching this right now, then I'm pretty sure you're using some kind of computer. Your computer might look like this or this. But you might also be watching me on a tablet, a phone, or even your TV.

And all of things are (or work) thanks to computers.

So, what is a computer? There are a lot of ways to answer that question, but to keep it simple, we'll say that a computer is a machine that can follow instructions.

Now instructions are just steps that tell us how to do a job. I bet you're already pretty good at following instructions. Like, a grown-up might give you instructions on how to put on a jacket or sweatshirt by yourself. If you don't do these steps in the right order, or you don't follow them closely, things might turn out all wrong. But if I do follow the instructions carefully, then I can easily get the jacket on without any problems.

Computers use instructions to do all kinds of things, and things that are way harder than getting dressed. The instructions that we give a computer are called "a program," and when the computer follows the instructions, we call it "running the program."

When a computer runs a program correctly, it accomplishes a task. It does something! For example: when you use a tablet or smart phone, you might run a special kind of program called an "app." An app (or application) is a program that has a specific job to do. It might be to play a game with you to help you learn math, or it might be to tell you if it's going to rain today.

Computers have lots of different parts to help them run apps or other kinds of programs, but there are two really important ones. The first part is called a "central processing unit." That's a big, fancy name, so most people call it the "CPU" for short. The CPU is kind of like the brain of the computer. It helps the computer to read and to follow the instructions that are in the program.

Computers also have a kind of memory, sort of like we do. You use your brain to remember things like how to put on a jacket. But a computer uses its memory to remember which step it's on when it's following instructions. And when a computer shows you a picture that you took last month, it's using its memory.

But a computer doesn't have a brain to use its memory. Instead its memory is often stored in tiny little electrical circuits called chips. All of these parts inside a computer make it work, but let's look at some of the outside parts of a computer: the parts we touch and see.

There are some parts we use to write programs, or to give a computer information. If we do that using letters and numbers, then we use a "keyboard." Some keyboards are separate from the computer with keys that you push. Others are built into the computer and all you have to do is touch the screen with your finger.

Another part that helps us to tell the computer what to do is called the "mouse." You can see why it's called a mouse. It has a wire that kind of looks like a tail. When you move the mouse on a table or desk, we move a pointer around. And when we click a button on the mouse, we give the computer an instruction.

Sometimes the mouse doesn't have a wire. And some computers don't use a mouse at all. On these computers you can just use your finger to move things around on the screen.

Oh! And speaking of the screen, that's another important part too. But instead of helping us put things into the computer, it helps the computer communicate with us. It shows us the results of the program we've put in.

So a screen can show us the math game we're playing, or a picture that we want to see. There are also "printers," which give us words and pictures on a piece of paper, and "speakers" or "headphones," which give us sounds.

All of these different parts work together so computers can help us work, study, and learn. And watching videos and playing games on computers is definitely a lot of fun.

But computers do so much more than that. Computers help people talk to each other all across the world. And they help people to design and build bridges, houses, skyscrapers, and roller coasters. Computers even help to launch astronauts into space, and help us to land robots to explore the surface of Mars.

Every day we're thinking of new ways computers can help us.

 Outro (3:56)

Thanks for using your computer to join me on SciShow Kids. Do you have a question about computers or anything else? Grab a grown-up and ask them to help you leave a comment down below, or send us an email to Thanks and we'll see you next time.