Computer systems: input, output and storage - face to face CP221

Take your first steps to opening up the computer, exploring the main components, their role and how they work together in computer systems.


Computers take many forms, from the smart watch on your wrist to the powerful machines used to predict the weather. They all share some key features and GCSE computer science students need to have a solid understanding of what makes a computer.

Take your first steps to opening up the computer, exploring the main components, their role and how they work together in computer systems. Learn about input and output devices, how memory is used for rapid storage and retrieval, and how data is stored elsewhere for long term use. You’ll explore different types of software, including the operating system and its critical role in managing all these resources.

Prior knowledge:

You’ll need to know some basic concepts and terminology to access this GCSE-level subject knowledge enhancement. If you are entirely new to computer science, we recommend first participating in our one-day course: An introduction to computer systems, networking and security in GCSE computer science

Recommended next steps:

This course forms part of the Computer Science Accelerator Programme 

To prepare you for teaching computer systems at GCSE level, we also recommended the one-day course: Computer Processors delivered by your local Computing Hub, or the online course: Understanding Computer Systems

This course is delivered as part of the National Centre for Computing Education.

Do you prefer to learn remotely? If so, take a look at: Computer Systems - Input, output and storage

Who is it for?

This course is for current or prospective teachers of GCSE computer science with some understanding of computer science fundamentals.

What topics are covered?

  • 01 | Hardware, input, process and output model – explore the roles and characteristics of different hardware components found inside the computer and how these work together.
  • 02 | RAM, ROM and virtual memory – learn how different types of memory are used by a computer system including the need for, and characteristics of, virtual memory.
  • 03 | Storage – explore how data is stored using different storage methods, including optical, magnetic and solid state storage. Learn how to calculate different file sizes and how to suggest suitable storage mediums based upon user requirements.

How will you learn?

You’ll engage with active learning in groups including direct instruction, hands-on activities and challenge-based learning. Examination practice with guidance linked to the specific requirements of the main awarding bodies. The course will model teaching approaches that can be taken back to the classroom.

How long is this course?

This is a one-day course which consists of five hours of teaching time.


You will:

  • Develop knowledge of the key hardware and software components of a computer system.
  • Understand main memory, and the need for virtual memory.
  • Recognise the different technologies used to store large amounts of data persistently.
  • Calculate data storage requirements for different contexts and applications.
  • Confidently tackle GCSE-level exam questions.
  • Take-away learning activities and methods for use in your classroom.
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