A computer is device that can receive process and store data. They are used as tools in every part of society together with the Internet. Computers nowadays are complex; there are a lot of different components inside them,
and they all serve different purposes. They all need to work together for the computer to work; knowing how a computer works makes it easier to use a computer by being able to understand how a computer will respond (1).
“A computer is a device that accepts information (in the form of digitalized data) and manipulates it for some result based on a program or sequence of instructions on how the data is to be processed”.
In its most basic form a computer is any device which aids humans in performing various kinds of computations or calculations. In that respect the earliest computer was the abacus, used to perform basic arithmetic operations.
Every computer supports some form of input, processing, and output. This is
less obvious on a primitive device such as the abacus where input, output and processing are simply the act of moving the pebbles into new positions, seeing the changed positions, and counting. Regardless, this is what computing is all about, in a nutshell. We input information; the computer processes it according to its basic logic or the program currently running, and outputs the results.
Modern computers do this electronically, which enables them to perform a vastly greater number of calculations or computations in less time. Despite the fact that we currently use computers to process images, sound, text and other non-numerical forms of data, all of it depends on nothing more than basic numerical calculations. Graphics, sound etc. are merely abstractions of the numbers being crunched within the machine; in digital computers these are the ones and zeros, representing electrical on and off states and endless combinations of those. In other words every image, every sound, and every word have a corresponding binary code.
While abacus may have technically been the first computer most people today associate the word “computer” with electronic computers which were invented in the last century, and have evolved into modern computers we know of today (2).
Generations of Computer:
· First Generation Computers (1940s – 1950s)
First electronic computers used vacuum tubes, and they were huge and complex. The first general purposes electronic computer was the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). It was digital, although it
didn’t operate with binary code, and was reprogrammable to solve a complete range of computing problems. It was programmed using plug boards and switches, supporting input from an IBM card reader, and output to an IBM card punch. It took up 167 square meters, weighed 27 tons, and consuming 150 kilowatts of power. It used thousands of vacuum tubes, crystal diodes, relays, resistors, and capacitors.
· Second Generation Computers (1955 – 1960)
The second generation of computers came about thanks to the invention of the transistor, which then started replacing vacuum tubes in computer design. Transistor computers consumed far less power, produced far less heat, and were much smaller compared to the first generation, albeit still big by today’s standards.
The first transistor computer was created at the University of Manchester in 1953. The most popular of transistor computers was IBM 1401. IBM also created the first disk drive in 1956, the IBM 350 RAMAC.
Third Generation Computers (1960s)
The invention of the integrated circuits (ICs), also known as microchips, paved the way for computers as we know them today. Making circuits out of single pieces of silicon, which is a semiconductor, allowed them to be much smaller and more practical to produce. This also started the ongoing process of integrating an ever larger number of transistors onto a single microchip. During the sixties microchips started making their way into computers, but the process was gradual, and second generation of computers still held on.
First appeared minicomputers, first of which were still based on non-microchip transistors, and later versions of which were hybrids, being based on both transistors and microchips, such as IBM’s System/360. They were much smaller, and cheaper than first and second generation of computers, also known as mainframes. Minicomputers can be seen as a bridge between mainframes and microcomputers, which came later as the proliferation of microchips in computers grew.
Fourth Generation Computers (1971 – present)
First microchips-based central processing units consisted of multiple microchips for different CPU components. The drive for ever greater integration and miniaturization led towards single-chip CPUs, where all of the necessary CPU components were put onto a single microchip, called a
microprocessor. The first single-chip CPU, or a microprocessor, was Intel 4004.
The advent of the microprocessor spawned the evolution of the microcomputers, the kind that would eventually become personal computers that we are familiar with today (3).
A computer is a device that accepts information (in the form of digitalized data) and manipulates it for some result based on a program or sequence of instructions on how the data is to be processed.