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The multimedia subsystem of the PC includes the various components that allow the system to work with and present data to the user beyond simple text and graphics. I suppose this is probably the most difficult subsystem to define, because the term "multimedia" is vague. I usually define it to include the following components:
Note: I suppose you could
make a good argument that the entire video subsystem is part of this subsystem, or that
printers should be included here, or the hard disk as well. If you like, it's certainly
fine to think of the multimedia subsystem in a more expanded way. The key is to see how
those components and the ones above work together to let the PC support a variety of
Most of these devices would not be considered by everyone to be strictly "necessary" for a PC, and in a corporate environment most PCs might very well not have any need for sound, digital video or speakers. (The exception would be a CD or DVD drive, due to the role of such a device in the storage subsystem.) In a personal PC however, these components, while "unnecessary", are the ones that open up the world of audio and video to the PC user, and to most buyers a sound card and speakers are important.
Most of the components in this subsystem connect together, usually in standardized ways, with the sound card being the center of focus. The CD or DVD drive will connect to the sound card to allow you to play audio CDs directly in your PC. Most drives and sound cards are compatible in modern machines, fortunately. Sound cards are notorious for requiring a great deal of system resources so they require some consideration in selection if you are planning a system with a large number of peripherals.
Speakers always use standard audio plugs and are industry standard, so you don't need to buy them along with your PC. In many cases you will both save money and get better sound by feeding your sound card's output to the auxiliary input jack of a home stereo system, assuming yours is in the same room as the PC.
If you want to make use of digital video, you will need to pay attention to interfaces. Especially with motion picture video, your system may require additional hardware to support the interface to the camera. Digital still cameras usually interface using USB or a serial port.
Next: Input Subsystem