A Computer is a device that accepts data, processes it, and displays the processed result. It can process both numerical and non-numerical (arithmetic and logical) calculations, and responds to a specific set of instructions (aka program) in a well-defined manner. The term computer has been derived from a latin word ‘computare’ which means to calculate.
The four main functions of computer are:
- Input: It means entering raw information into a computer from the input devices. It is the collection of letters, numbers, images, etc.
- Processing: It means the operation/manipulation of data as per given instruction.
- Output: It is the processed data aka the result given by computer after data processing.
- Storage: It means storing data so that it’s available for future use. Quite often, we need to save output for future use. This is done through storage.
Computers work through an interaction of hardware and software. Hardware refers to the parts of a computer that you can see and touch, including the case and everything inside it. Software refers to the instructions, or programs, that tell the hardware what to do. A word-processing program on your computer, example MS Word, is a type of software.
All general-purpose computers require the following hardware components:
- Input device: usually a keyboard and mouse, the input device is the medium through which data and instructions are entered into a computer.
- Output device: a display screen, printer, or other device that lets you see what the computer has processed.
- Central processing unit (CPU): the brain of the computer, this is the component that actually executes instructions.
- Main memory: enables a computer to store data and programs temporarily.
- Secondary/Auxiliary memory: allows a computer to permanently retain large amounts of data. Common secondary storage devices include hard disk, CDs and Pen Drives.
Computers can generally be classified by size and power, though there are sometimes ambiguity between these categories
- Personal Computer: a microprocessor based small, single-user computer. A personal computer has a keyboard for entering data, a monitor for displaying information, and a storage device for saving data.
- Workstation: a very powerful, single-user computer. A workstation is more or less like a personal computer. However, it has a more powerful microprocessor and a higher-quality monitor. Usually, computers found in offices of IT Companies are Workstations.
- Minicomputer: a multi-user computer capable of supporting many users simultaneously; smaller in size than previous computers.
- Mainframe: a powerful multi-user computer capable of supporting thousands of users simultaneously.
- Supercomputer: an extremely fast computer that can perform hundreds of millions of instructions per second.
That’s all for the basics of ‘What is a computer?’
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