computer definition

A computer, computer or computer (computer in English) is an electronic device basically composed of a processor, memory and input/output devices, and allows information to be processed.

Technically a computer is a programmable machine, this means that it can execute a list of instructions and respond to new instructions that are given to it. In any case, today, the term computer is colloquially associated with desktop PCs and notebooks; tablets and smartphones are also computers.

Computers have a physical part (Hardware) and a logical part (Software) that combine to be able to interpret and execute instructions for which they were programmed.

A computer usually has a large base software called an operating system that serves as a platform for running other applications or tools, as well as for controlling peripheral devices of the computer.

In computers, what is known as the Information Processing Cycle occurs, consisting of input, processing, output, and storage.

apple computer

Typical components of a computer

CPU, memory, motherboard, input-output devices, system bus, etc.

The components of a computer can be classified into:

– Hardware: the physical part such as processor, memory, components, peripherals…

– Software: the logical part such as the operating system, programs, software…

– Firmware

See the article: Typical Computer Components

Computing history: first computer

The computer is the most advanced version of a set of computational tools invented since ancient times: the Bacchus, the Antikythera machine, the Napier sticks. Exemplars of the most famous calculating machines are perhaps Pascal’s machine (1645) and Leibniz’s machine (1672), but Wilhelm Schickard’s calculating machine of 1623 should also be noted, of which only the drafts remain.

The transition from the calculating machine to a real computer (in the sense of the programmable device) was made by Charles Babbage. His analytical engine was designed in 1833; he l he never realized that it was the first computer in history. It was a colossal geared apparatus, powered by steam and equipped with input, output, memory units, a unit for calculating decimals with the register of the accumulation of data, and a connection system between the various parts. Contrary to what one might think, the analytical engine was totally digital.

Computing history: modern age

Over the ensuing centuries, equipment has passed through various stages: the analog computer (Vannevar Bush’s differential analyzer of 1927 is an example), the Turing machine, the mechanical and electromechanical digital computer (Konrad Zuse’s Z-series, the Stibitz machine and Howard Aiken’s ASCC) and, finally, those of digital electronics (John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry’s ABC, John Presper Eckert and John Mauchly’s ENIAC).

During the 20th century, important advances in the field of electronics – such as the transistor and the integrated circuit – have also contributed to the evolution of the computer in its current form.

Logical description of a computer

Logical structure of the computer

CPU, data bus, information bus, memory…

Read the article: Logical structure of the computer.

practical computer applications

In essence, a computer is capable of performing logical operations such as numerical calculations. In fact, historically it was the first form of computing application calculation.

With successive progress, many types of equipment have been developed and achieved, built for various tasks, professional or not.

Computers enable general office automation applications, database creation and management, computer-aided design, computer graphics, simulation, electronic control systems, medical diagnostic applications, video games, etc.

hardware, software, programming

Unlike the human mind, understood as the activity of the brain that is capable of facing and solving new problems through cognitive faculties (such as intuition and reasoning), the computer is a simple executor of orders, instructions or tasks. using an algorithm that from certain inputs can produce certain outputs. This is how the idea of ​​programs or applications was born: a computer without a program is useless.

As an executor, therefore, it needs to be trained or programmed from the outside at the hands of programmers using programming languages ​​(from low to high abstraction level).

This intangible part that allows the use of programs is commonly called software. While the hardware is rather the physical, tangible part.

Then there is the data present in the computer’s memory, including files and directories, and is used as input to programs.

Of course, all activity performed by a computer is invisible to the user, who typically employs a software user interface to control it.

The most important basic software for a computer without which the machine will not function is the operating system, which takes care of the machine, its hardware resources, and other applications. It also provides the user with the interface (graphic or text).

types of computers

Mainframe, supercomputer, home computer, personal computer…

See: Types of computers

computer architecture

See the article: architecture.

Computer networks

See the article: computer network.

performance parameters of a computer

The basic performance parameters of a computer are its processing capacity and its storage capacity. In principle, therefore, we identify the following parameters:

For processing capacity:

– the clock frequency of the processor;
– 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit or 64-bit architecture and multicore;

Another calculation performance parameter can also be the calculation power in MIPS or FLOPS i.e. the number of floating point operations executed by the CPU in one second (used especially for computers for scientific purposes).

For memory capacity:

– the capacity of the primary or main memory (RAM);
– capacity of secondary storage (mass storage);

The future of the computer: quantum computers

Among the various active areas of study and research on computing, quantum computing stands out. Probably provide a revolution in classical computing. It is based on concepts and physical phenomena offered by quantum mechanics.

The device that is designed according to these criteria will be called a quantum computer.

For more information see: Quantum Computers

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Bibliographic sources:
– Oxford English Dictionary (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. 1989. Retrieved 10 April 2009.

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