What is Computer?

What is Computer?

A computer functions as a programmable electronic apparatus capable of receiving raw data as input and utilizing a set of instructions, known as a program, to carry out processes that yield output results. Following the execution of mathematical and logical operations, it promptly generates output and has the capability to store the results for subsequent use. Computers are proficient in handling both numerical and non-numerical calculations. The term “computer” finds its roots in the Latin word “computare,” signifying the act of calculation.

A computer is engineered to run applications, delivering diverse solutions through the integration of hardware and software components. It operates by executing programs and represents numerical values in the form of binary digits. Additionally, it possesses memory to store data, programs, and processing results. The hardware components encompass machinery like wires, transistors, circuits, and the hard disk, while the software includes programs and data.

The Analytical Engine, credited as the inaugural computer, was conceived by Charles Babbage in 1837. Utilizing punch cards for read-only memory, it marked a significant advancement in computing technology. Charles Babbage is widely recognized as the progenitor of the computer.

A computer relies on essential components for its functioning, including:

  1. Processor: Responsible for executing instructions from both software and hardware.
  2. Memory: Serves as the primary medium for data transfer between the CPU and storage.
  3. Motherboard: The central component that interconnects all other parts and components within a computer.
  4. Storage Device: Permanently stores data, typically in devices like a hard drive.
  5. Input Device: Allows users to communicate with the computer or input data, such as a keyboard.
  6. Output Device: Facilitates the display of output, as seen on devices like a monitor.

Computers are categorized into various types according to different criteria. Based on size, computers can be classified into five types:

(1) Microcomputer- A microcomputer is a solitary computing device characterized by lower speed and storage capacity compared to other computer types. Its central processing unit (CPU) is typically a microprocessor. The initial microcomputers were constructed using 8-bit microprocessor chips. Examples of microcomputers encompass laptops, desktop computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), tablets, and smartphones. These devices are primarily designed for general-purpose tasks such as web browsing, information retrieval, internet usage, running MS Office applications, and engaging with social media.

(2) Mini Computer- Mini-computers, commonly referred to as “Midrange Computers,” are not tailored for solitary use. Instead, they are multi-user systems crafted to accommodate concurrent usage by multiple individuals. As a result, they find prevalent applications in small businesses and enterprises. Various departments within a company leverage these computers for specific functions. For instance, a university’s admission department might employ a Mini-computer to oversee the intricacies of the admission process.

(3) Mainframe Computer- It functions as a multi-user computer with the capability to accommodate thousands of users concurrently. Large corporations and government entities employ these systems to manage their business activities due to their ability to store and process vast quantities of data. For instance, banks, universities, and insurance companies leverage mainframe computers to securely store and efficiently process customer information, student records, and policyholder data.

(4) Supercomputers- Supercomputers, distinguished as the swiftest and priciest among all computer variants, boast extensive storage capacities and computing speeds, enabling them to execute millions of instructions per second. These high-performance machines are tailored for specific tasks, finding applications in specialized domains such as tackling large-scale numerical challenges in scientific and engineering fields. Their utility spans diverse sectors, including electronics, petroleum engineering, weather forecasting, medicine, and space research. NASA, for instance, harnesses supercomputing prowess to launch and oversee space satellites, employing them in the meticulous monitoring and control essential for space exploration endeavors.

(5) Workstations- It functions as an individual user’s computer, resembling a personal computer but equipped with a more robust microprocessor and a superior-quality monitor compared to a standard microcomputer. Positioned in terms of storage capacity and processing speed between a personal computer and a minicomputer, workstations are primarily employed for specialized tasks such as desktop publishing, software development, and engineering designs.

Applications of Computer:

During the 1950s, computers were colossal, dedicated machines primarily employed by expansive institutions such as governments and universities. Their main purpose was to execute intricate numerical operations, like determining the precise orbit of Mars or plotting missile trajectories.

The 1960s witnessed the integration of computers into the business realm for commercial applications. The subsequent decade, the 1970s, marked a pivotal moment with the advent of the personal computer, bringing about a revolutionary transformation worldwide. Today, computers play a ubiquitous role, permeating nearly every aspect of life across various fields.

Some major applications of computers are listed below:

(1) Computers play a vital role in various aspects of business, encompassing budgeting, accounting, sales and marketing, manufacturing, human resource development, reporting, presentations, and office automation. Whether conducting transactions at a bank, visiting a railway reservation counter, or paying utility bills, individuals routinely experience the efficiency and speed afforded by computers.

(2) The applications of computers in the field of medicine and healthcare are extensive. They are instrumental in diagnosing illnesses, monitoring patients, facilitating cures, and supporting surgical procedures. Noteworthy examples include the integration of computers into medical devices like pacemakers, designed to address heart-related issues. Advanced imaging technologies such as Computerised Axial Tomography (CAT) Scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) contribute to organ scanning. Laboratories employ computers for conducting a variety of clinical tests on blood, urine, stool, and more. Additionally, computers are utilized to assist physically disabled individuals, and telemedicine allows access to medical care through computer videoconferencing. In medical education, virtual reality on computers enables students to practice surgical operations, marking a notable advancement in the field.

(3) Computer Applications in Communications – Computers play a crucial role in facilitating data communication among geographically separated offices through networking. They serve as a means to transmit diverse forms of information, including digital data, voice, sound, and video, from one location to another using various transmission media. Key areas where computers find application in data communications and telecommunications include networking and client/server computing, Internet, Intranet, and Extranet usage, data communication systems, and teleconferencing systems.

(4) Computer Applications in Education – Computers serve as a fundamental medium for educational purposes, offering extensive use in online training across various subjects through computer networks. Integration of computer education into school curricula has become commonplace, covering foundational computer knowledge and delving into advanced computer topics.

(5) Computer Applications in Engineering – Computers are integral in the development of products through Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and their subsequent manufacturing using Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM). CAD systems facilitate the design of diverse products, ranging from cuboids to cylinders. Following the design phase, CAM systems come into play, particularly when manufacturing involves robotic processes.

(6) Utilizations of Computers in the Banking and Financial Sectors – Computers play a vital role in the banking and financial sectors, particularly in the stock market, where they are extensively employed for managing accounts and related information. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) provided by banks leverage computer technology to interact with customers, facilitating actions such as cash and cheque deposits, withdrawals, and account inquiries through a technologically driven interface. Additionally, banks harness the power of the Internet to deliver online services, encompassing features like accessing account information and executing cash transfers.

(7) Computer Applications in Entertainment – In addition to serving commercial, scientific, industrial, and professional needs, computers contribute significantly to user entertainment. Contemporary special application software offers a diverse range of entertainment options. Popular entertainment software for personal computers includes computer games, graphics software, multimedia and animation programs, as well as internet-based activities such as web browsing and chatting.

(8) Computers in Advertisement Applications – The advertising industry extensively relies on computers to craft visually captivating advertisements for both print and electronic media. This encompasses the use of computer graphics in the digital creation and modification of television and internet advertisements. Examples of internet advertisements include banner ads, search engine results pages, social networking ads, online classified ads, pop-ups, and contextual ads.

(9) Utilization of Computers in Law Enforcement – Computers play a pivotal role in law enforcement by managing extensive databases of stolen vehicles. Within seconds, the police can access vital information such as the car owner’s details, license number, and other pertinent data. Additionally, traffic police employ computer-embedded speed cameras to monitor and identify individuals violating traffic laws. Advanced techniques, such as DNA fingerprinting, assist in positively identifying individuals based on blood, skin, or hair samples collected from crime scenes, thereby aiding in the determination of guilt or innocence.

(10) Integration of Computers in Military Operations – Military personnel leverage computers for essential tasks, including computing missile trajectories, assessing weather conditions for aircraft takeoff, and disseminating critical information. The development of pilotless warplanes, controlled by computers, has become a reality, enhancing military capabilities. Similarly, computer-controlled missiles and submarines showcase the military’s reliance on advanced computing systems.

(11) Applications of Computers in Research and Development – Computers contribute significantly to research and development across various domains:

  1. Elaborate molecular designs are created, visualized, and manipulated through computer systems.
  2. Computers enable the prediction of the impact of earthquakes on buildings.
  3. Forecasting the influence of pollution on weather patterns is made possible through computer simulations.
  4. Advanced computing allows the prediction of cyclones in specific areas 2-3 days before their occurrence.
  5. The study of the effects of nuclear tests can be conducted using computers, eliminating the need for actual tests.
  6. Computers play a crucial role in the exploration of outer space, solar systems, and the cosmos.

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