All matter is comprised of molecules, which in turn are comprised of atoms. Some ancient Greeks believed that atoms were indivisible, hence the name ‘atom’ (Greek for ‘indivisible’). We now know that atoms are not indivisible. They are made up of a number of electrons orbiting a central nucleus made up of protons and neutrons.
Protons and electrons are electrical particles, protons are said to be positively charged and electrons negatively charged. They are both surrounded by an electrical force called the electromagnetic force.
The force between two positive charges is repulsive, as is the force between two negative charges, but the force is attractive between a positive and a negative charge. This force keeps an electron in its orbit around the nucleus.
What has all this got to do with computers? Well I will try and explain the importance of electrons in modern technology.
Of the one hundred or so various atoms or elements, each has its own quantity of protons, neutrons and electrons. Some atoms have large amounts of electrons that orbit the nucleus in different layers. The various layers can hold only a maximum amount of electrons, for example, the inner most layer will only ever have a maximum of two electrons, the next layer can accommodate eight and a third layer is complete when eighteen electrons are whizzing around.
The ten inner most electrons are known as core electrons and the outermost are called valence electrons. These valence electrons are loosely bound to their parent nucleus and can be easily dislodged, allowing them to become ‘free’ electrons.
When atoms are bound together in elements such as silver (Ag) or gold (Au), the ‘free’ electrons can move from one atoms orbit into another. This movement of electrons causes a flow of electrically charged particles known as current or electricity.
Some elements consist of atoms that do not contain many ‘loose’ electrons and are not considered good conductors of electricity. Other elements such as copper (Cu) have a large amount of ‘loose’ electrons and as such are used in electrical wiring to carry the electric current.
The discovery of electric current gave way to the birth of electronics and modern technology as we know it. Devices such as computers rely on electric current to flow through circuits from one place to another and store the charge in various combinations that represent data.