Introduction to Computer
In the modern era, computers are an essential part of our everyday existence. That means computers are present in almost every field, making our day-to-day tasks easier and faster. Nowadays, computers can be seen in banks, shops, schools, hospitals, railways, and many more places, including our home. As they are such an essential part of our lives, we must know about the basic computer introduction. Let us start with defining the computer first:
What is a Computer?
The straightforward meaning of a computer is a machine that can calculate. However, modern computers are not just a calculating device anymore. They can perform a variety of tasks. In simple terms, a computer is a programmable electronic machine used to store, retrieve, and process data.
According to the definition, “A computer is a programmable electronic device that takes data, perform instructed arithmetic and logical operations, and gives the output.“
Whatever is given to the computer as input is called ‘data’, while the output received after processing is called ‘information’.
A Brief History of Computer
The term ‘Computer’ was first introduced in 1640 and referred to as ‘one who calculates’. It was derived from the Latin word ‘computare’, which meant ‘to calculate’. In 1897, it was known as the ‘calculating machine’. Later in 1945, the term ‘computer’ was introduced as ‘programmable digital electronic computer, which is now called a ‘computer’.
When the computers were introduced, they were large and could fill an entire room. Some computers were operated using large-sized vacuum tubes. In 1833, Charles Babbage (known as the father of the computer) invented an early calculator, which was named as the ‘difference engine‘. Later in 1837, he introduced the first mechanical, general-purpose computer ‘Analytical Engine’. Over time, computers became powerful in performance and small in size.
Generations of Computer
There are five generations of the computer, which can be classified as below:
First Generation (1946 – 1959): During the first generation, computers were based on electronic valves (Vacuum Tubes). Some popular computers of first-generation are ENIAC, EDVAC, UNIVAC, etc.
Second Generation (1959 – 1965): During the second generation, computers were based on Transistors. Some popular computers of second-generation are IBM 1400, IBM 1620, IBM 7000 series, etc.
Third Generation (1965 – 1971): During the third generation, computers were based on Integrated Circuits (ICs). Some popular computers of the third generation are IBM 360, IBM 370, PDP, etc.
Fourth Generation (1971 – 1980): During the fourth generation, computers were based on very large scale integrated (VLSI) circuits. Some popular computers of fourth-generation are STAR 1000, CRAY-1, CRAY-X-MP, DEC 10, etc.
Fifth Generation (1980 – Present): The fifth generation is still ongoing. The computers are based on multiple technologies, such as ultra large scale integration (ULSI), artificial intelligence (AI), and parallel processing hardware. The fifth generation of computers includes Desktop, Laptop, NoteBook, etc.
Computer Software and Hardware
Computer software is a group of instructions or programs that instructs the computer system to work accordingly. There are mainly two types of software:
System Software: System software help establish communication between hardware components so that the user can interact with the computer. These types of software are necessary for the computer to operate correctly. They provide an interface to run additional third party programs or utility tools. Operating systems, drivers, utility software, and firmware are typical examples of the system software.
Application Software: Application software is designed to help users to perform specific tasks, such as online surfing, setting the alarm, listening to music, playing videos, photo designing, editing, etc. This type of software mostly runs in the frontend and allows end-users to work on. Web browsers, Photoshop software, multimedia software and word processors are the example of the application software.
The physical parts attached to a computer that form a whole computer are called hardware or hardware components. There can be different types of hardware, depending on the structure. Some most common hardware are mouse, keyboard, monitor, printer, etc. These are the parts that can be seen and touched by humans.
Basic Parts of Computer
The essential components of the computer can be defined as follows:
Input Unit: Input Units or devices are used to input the data or instructions into the computers. Some most common input devices are mouse and keyword.
Output Unit: Output Units or devices are used to provide output to the user in the desired format. The most popular examples of output devices are the monitor and the printer.
Control Unit: As its name states, this unit is primarily used to control all the computer functions and functionalities. All the components or devices attached to a computer interact with each other through the control unit. In short, the control unit is referred to as ‘CU‘.
Arithmetic Logic Unit: The arithmetic logic unit helps perform all the computer system’s arithmetic and logical operations. In short, the arithmetic logic unit is referred to as ‘ALU‘.
Memory: Memory is used to store all the input data, instructions, and output data. Memory usually has two types: Primary Memory and Secondary Memory. The memory found inside the CPU is called the primary memory, whereas the memory that is not the integral part of the CPU is called secondary memory.
Note: Control Unit, arithmetic logic unit, and the memory simultaneously form the central processing unit (called CPU in short).
Functions of Computer
There are four core functions of the computer, as explained below:
Input: Whatever is given to a computer is called the input. The input data is given to the computer using the input devices. The computer only takes data in a binary form (raw format). The input devices help convert the entered data in the binary form to be understandable by the computer. Data can be inputted in various forms, such as letters, numbers, images, etc.
Processing: Processing is the primary function of the computer. CPU helps to process the data according to the instructions entered into the computer system. The processing of data is an internal process of the computer system, and the data is executed in a queue. After the processing has been completed, the data is further transferred as the output. The processor (CPU) is the computer’s brain, and it is a microchip. The processor’s speed varies in different computers because it depends on several factors, such as the type of CPU, memory, and motherboard.
Typically, the following operations are performed on the data during the processing:
- Arithmetic Operations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, differentials, square root, etc.
- Logical Operations, such as equal to, not equal to, greater than, less than, opposite, etc.
Output: Anything that comes out from the computer is called the output. It is the human-readable data and displayed on the computer screen (monitor). Output can be stored in the storage devices if desired. The output devices help convert the processed data of the CPU into the human-understandable form.
Storage: The device used to store the data of a computer system is called the storage. Storage devices help to store digital data. They can store the data while the computer is operating and after processing. There are volatile and non-volatile storage options. The volatile storage can store the data as long as the power source is connected, whereas non-volatile can store the data permanently even after the power source is disconnected.
Characteristics of Computer
The essential characteristics of the computer make it such an important part of human lives. Let’s understand the basic characteristics of computers:
Speed: Computers are a high-speed electronic machine. They can carry around 3-4 million instruction per second. Even advanced computers can handle trillions of instructions per second, cutting down the time to perform any digital tasks.
Accuracy: Computers are also known for their accurate performance. They can complete the given jobs at almost 100% accuracy. Although errors may occur in computers, they are usually caused by incorrect input, incorrect instructions, or bugs in chips. All of these are human errors.
Storage Capacity: Computers can easily store a massive size of data. Modern computers come inbuilt with high storage features compared to older days. Additional data can be stored on secondary devices like external hard disks, or flash memory, etc. Due to incredible speed, data can be retrieved from storage in no time.
Reliability: Computers are reliable and consistent; they can process the same tasks any number of times without throwing any error. Computers don’t get tired like humans, so they are superior to perform rule-based, repetitive tasks.
Versatility: The variety of tasks that a computer can perform are almost infinite. That means computers can perform different tasks back to back without making errors; they are no longer just a computing machine. For one moment, a computer can be used to perform data entry tasks or ticket booking, and the very next moment, it can be used for complex mathematical calculations or continuous astronomical observations, etc.
Classification of Computer
According to physical size, computers are classified into the following types:
Supercomputer: Supercomputers are the fastest and the most expensive type of computer. They are large and require more space for installation. These types of computers are mainly designed to perform massive data-based and complex tasks. Supercomputers are capable enough to handle trillions of instructions at the same time.
Mainframe Computer: Mainframe computers are comparatively smaller in size as compared to supercomputers. However, they are not much small. These types of computers are designed to perform hundreds or thousands of jobs at a time simultaneously. These computers can handle heavy tasks, including complex calculations and can store vast amounts of data. They are best suited for big organizations such as banking, telecom, and educational sectors.
Microcomputer: Microcomputers are cheap in price and support multi-user platform. These are the general-purpose computers designed to handle all the necessary tasks of individual needs. Since they are comparatively slower than mainframe computers, thereby are suitable for small organizations. They are best suited for internet café, schools, universities, offices, etc. A microcomputer is also referred to as the ‘Personal Computer (PC)’ in general life. Laptop and desktop are examples of microcomputers.
Minicomputer: Minicomputers are also referred to as Miniframe computers. These are the midsize multiprocessing computer designed purposely for easy carry. These types of computers are light-weight and can fit in a small space. They are suitable for billing, accounting, education, and business purposes. Since these minicomputers are easy to carry, they are the best option for those who need a computer while traveling. Tablet PC, Notebooks, and cell phones are examples of minicomputers.
Workstation: Workstation is a powerful, single-user computer. A workstation is a personal computer with a faster microprocessor, a massive amount of RAM, higher-quality monitors, high graphic memory, etc. This is best suited for performing any specific type of task professionally. According to the type of tasks, a workstation can be referred to as a music workstation, graphic workstation, or engineering design workstation. Most businesses and professionals use workstations for performing tasks like animation, music creation, video editing, poster designs, data analysis and more.
Advantages of Using Computer
The following are the main advantages of using the computer:
- Computers can perform given tasks at incredible speed.
- Computers can perform the same task multiple times with the same accuracy.
- Computers allow doing several tasks simultaneously as they are best suited for multitasking.
- Computers keep the stored data secure and inaccessible from unauthorized users.
- Computers can automatically perform routine tasks with automation, making humans available for more intelligent tasks.
Disadvantages of Using Computer
The following are the main disadvantages of using the computer:
- Computers cannot work on their own. They need instructions from humans to complete tasks. Moreover, computers follow the given instructions blindly without thinking about the outcomes.
- Computers need a power supply to work. Without a power supply, they are just useless.
- Working on a computer continuously for a long period can cause several health issues.
- Wastage of computers and their parts leave a negative impact on the environment.
- Computers are taking human jobs in many sectors. They are replacing human work and thus increasing unemployment.