Today’s world is information-rich, and almost all of us make use of computers in one way or another. A computer finds applications in various fields like medical science, engineering, scientific research, commercial, and others. Computers have become indispensable not only in the sophisticated sectors but also in our day-to-day lives.
The term computer comes from the word ― compute, which means to calculate. The computer was initially defined as a super-fast calculator that could solve complex scientific and arithmetic problems at high speed. However, today, more than 80% of computer work is of non-mathematical or non-numerical nature.
A computer is an electronic data processing device, which accepts and stores data input, processes the raw data input, and generates the meaningful output in a required format. The information in one form presented to the computer is the input information or input data.
This article aims to introduce you to computers and their fundamentals and functions.
What is Computer? (Definition & Meaning)
A computer is a programmable electronic machine that accepts raw input data and processes it with instructions to produce meaningful results in the form of data or information as output. After performing logical and mathematical operations, it renders the output and saves the outcome in the memory for future use.
A computer is a machine capable of solving complex problems and manipulating data. It can process numerical as well as non-numerical calculations. It works with the help of programs (software) and represents the decimal numbers through a string of binary digits.
Wondering what is the full form of computer? Well, the computer full form is Common Operatign Machine Purposly Used for Technological and Educational Research.
The terms software and hardware are almost always used in association with the computer.
The hardware is the machinery itself. It is made up of the physical parts or devices of the computer system like the Integrated Circuits (ICs), magnetic storage media, and other mechanical devices like input devices, output devices, etc. All these various hardware are linked together to form an effective functional unit.
The different types of hardware used in computers have evolved from vacuum tubes of the first generation to Ultra Large Scale Integrated Circuits.
The computer hardware itself is not capable of doing anything on its own. It has to be given explicit instructions to perform the specific task. The computer program is the one that controls the processing activities of the computer. The computer thus functions according to the instructions written in the program.
The software mainly consists of these computer programs, procedures, and other documentation used to operate a computer system. Software is a group of programs that utilize and improve the capability of the hardware.
Note – It is believed that the first mechanical computer was Analytical Engine which Charles Babbage invented in 1837. It was the first general-purpose computer and used punch cards as read-only memory. Charles Babbage is also known as the father of the computer.
Basic Functions of Computer
The basic functions of a computer are as follows:-
A computer needs data and instructions to solve any problem. Therefore, we need to input the data and instructions to the computer. The data is provided to the computer with the help of input devices. Like other electronic devices, a computer takes data in raw form (binary form).
Some of the primary input devices of computer systems are listed below:
- Lightpen, etc.
The processing is the core functionality of the computer system. It is the internal process where the data is processed according to the instructions given to the computer. The data is executed sequentially and sent for additional processing.
The processing speed may vary in various computer systems. The speed mainly depends upon factors like which type of Motherboard, CPU (Central Processing Unit), or RAM (Random Access Memory) you are using.
The output is the information delivered by the computer after the entire processing. It is also known as the result that can be stored in the storage devices for future use. The output devices retrieve the processed information or data from the computer and convert the data into a human-readable form.
Some of the primarily used output devices of computer systems are given below:-
- Speakers, etc.
Storage is an integral part of the computer system, and it is used to store data or instructions before and after processing. Generally, there are two types of storage, and they are as follows:-
- Primary Storage
- Secondary Storage
The primary storage devices store the inputted data and immediate calculation results. The data stored in the primary storage is temporary, i.e., volatile and lost if disconnected from the power source. An example of the primary storage is Random Access Memory (RAM).
The secondary storage devices are used to keep the data permanently for future use. The data stored in the secondary storage devices is secure even if there is no power supply. It is used as an archiver and stores several programs, documents, databases, etc. Examples of secondary storage are Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and Solid State Drive (SSD).