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How can a chip understand what's happening and how can it be altered with a code?

I know it's a complicated question, and please if you don't understand notify me to specify as much as needed, but I don't understand how can a physical object display some sort of code to a screen when powered up, and how a different code sequence can alter the way it behaves.

Let's say you have a PCB and you install the BIOS chip in it, how does that chip know what to do when electricity runs through it, let alone give me a menu to alter my computer settings?

Thank you
12 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about chip understand happening altered code
  1. The code writer was given a data sheet that says, when CPU "X" is turned on, it reads address "Y" for bootstrap code. So the motherboard manufacturer builds the motherboard so that the entry point of the BIOS code is at address "Y".
    The CPU manufacturer publishes specs that rest of the infrastructure providers can built against.
  2. In truth it can't understand anything, that's just us humans putting it in terms that help us understand what's going on.

    At the basic level of computer chips it's all made from logic gates, a gate might have 3 wires and is a small circuit designed so that depending on what voltage is on the 2 input wires the output wire will either be off or on. There are different gates that have different functions and by combining more and more of them we can create a circuit that gives different outputs depending on the condition of a lot of different inputs.

    Code is basically "0"s & "1"s - which electrically is either 0V or 5V (or other voltages depending on the type of chip and it's design - the important thing is different electrical states). So the code is a series of voltages applied to the input wires of a series of circuits designed to give different outputs based on those inputs.

    If that makes any sense at all.
  3. Dugimodo said:
    In truth it can't understand anything, that's just us humans putting it in terms that help us understand what's going on.

    At the basic level of computer chips it's all made from logic gates, a gate might have 3 wires and is a small circuit designed so that depending on what voltage is on the 2 input wires the output wire will either be off or on. There are different gates that have different functions and by combining more and more of them we can create a circuit that gives different outputs depending on the condition of a lot of different inputs.

    Code is basically "0"s & "1"s - which electrically is either 0V or 5V (or other voltages depending on the type of chip and it's design - the important thing is different electrical states). So the code is a series of voltages applied to the input wires of a series of circuits designed to give different outputs based on those inputs.

    If that makes any sense at all.


    Thanks for the enlightenment! But that sparks up different questions.
    To make something to work with 0 (no electricity) and 1 (electricity on) it has to be made of silicon right? (such as the CPU's) So pretty much anything that works with that process can be modified to have a code and become a candidate of altering its functions and modifying it to our desires correct?
  4. Best answer
    not really, in order to be programmable a circuit has to be designed for it or at least incorporate some elements that are designed for it.
    Many circuits are designed with only a very set number of functions and won't do anything else without physical modification.

    Computers and other programmable circuits are designed to be flexible and to run code. If you want to go much deeper into it though you may need to start reading some books... I'm going off technical courses from my trainee days in telecommunications in the 80s here and am stretching my memory even for the rudimentary stuff I've come up with so far.
  5. Oh and no, it doesn't specifically have to be made of silicon, a light bulb works with 0 and 1 just fine :)
  6. Dugimodo said:
    not really, in order to be programmable a circuit has to be designed for it or at least incorporate some elements that are designed for it.
    Many circuits are designed with only a very set number of functions and won't do anything else without physical modification.

    Computers and other programmable circuits are designed to be flexible and to run code. If you want to go much deeper into it though you may need to start reading some books... I'm going off technical courses from my trainee days in telecommunications in the 80s here and am stretching my memory even for the rudimentary stuff I've come up with so far.


    Thank you so much! Do you have any book that you might recommend about these topics? I know it's pretty complicated but I am sort of tired of the forums always having threads about basic installiation of components and not actually understand the fundamentals of how that component is able to do what it does!

    A true passion should spark the interest to search as deep as possible otherwise it is just a hobby ^.^
  7. Electronics 101
  8. Ragnarous said:

    Thanks for the enlightenment! But that sparks up different questions.
    To make something to work with 0 (no electricity) and 1 (electricity on) it has to be made of silicon right? (such as the CPU's) So pretty much anything that works with that process can be modified to have a code and become a candidate of altering its functions and modifying it to our desires correct?


    The first digital computers consisted of vacuum tubes and relays, it just has to be a switch. And a logic state '0' doesn't have to be 'no electricity', just a difference in state from logic state of '1'.

    https://www.computerhope.com/jargon/e/eniac.htm
  9. you need to learn basic Electricity and Electronics first. Chips are not sentient, they do what they are designed to do when a charge is applied.

    read a book. you can buy the ebook too. I took all that a million years ago in high school, had a great electronics course that actually got you ready for Electrician exams, so at least you learned house wiring. practical tests too. was great. I took all three years. we had tons of fun fixing TVs and radios, building things, fixing old video Atari game consoles and playing on our fixed TVs... lol

    https://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Electricity-Electronics-Technology-Electronic/dp/1133948510

    if anyone is going to be sentient cyborg first, it's me, I just need to come up with my super sweet cybernetic host body... olol.... I always wanted to be a Cylon from the new series, hell even the first one from CAPRICA


    that's me after the brain transplant
  10. Ragnarous said:
    Dugimodo said:
    not really, in order to be programmable a circuit has to be designed for it or at least incorporate some elements that are designed for it.
    Many circuits are designed with only a very set number of functions and won't do anything else without physical modification.

    Computers and other programmable circuits are designed to be flexible and to run code. If you want to go much deeper into it though you may need to start reading some books... I'm going off technical courses from my trainee days in telecommunications in the 80s here and am stretching my memory even for the rudimentary stuff I've come up with so far.


    Thank you so much! Do you have any book that you might recommend about these topics? I know it's pretty complicated but I am sort of tired of the forums always having threads about basic installiation of components and not actually understand the fundamentals of how that component is able to do what it does!

    A true passion should spark the interest to search as deep as possible otherwise it is just a hobby ^.^


    You need a few years of school to learn exactly what it takes to make computers work past computer tech stuff. I have a few friends that went into CPU design, took 6 years in a good school to learn.

    For a good basic idea of how earlier computers worked, check on the A+ exam prep by Mike Meyers, there is some good info about history of computers in there also. Nothing on the programming level but at least something to start with.
  11. hang-the-9 said:
    Ragnarous said:
    Dugimodo said:
    not really, in order to be programmable a circuit has to be designed for it or at least incorporate some elements that are designed for it.
    Many circuits are designed with only a very set number of functions and won't do anything else without physical modification.

    Computers and other programmable circuits are designed to be flexible and to run code. If you want to go much deeper into it though you may need to start reading some books... I'm going off technical courses from my trainee days in telecommunications in the 80s here and am stretching my memory even for the rudimentary stuff I've come up with so far.


    Thank you so much! Do you have any book that you might recommend about these topics? I know it's pretty complicated but I am sort of tired of the forums always having threads about basic installiation of components and not actually understand the fundamentals of how that component is able to do what it does!

    A true passion should spark the interest to search as deep as possible otherwise it is just a hobby ^.^


    You need a few years of school to learn exactly what it takes to make computers work past computer tech stuff. I have a few friends that went into CPU design, took 6 years in a good school to learn.

    For a good basic idea of how earlier computers worked, check on the A+ exam prep by Mike Meyers, there is some good info about history of computers in there also. Nothing on the programming level but at least something to start with.


    Thanx a lot :)
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