Computer Definition & Meaning| What is Computer

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There have been a number of inventions in technology. With time, some got their improved versions whereas some got vanished. Bulb, telegram, transmitter, and many other inventions have their great mention in the history of science. But the computer may be the arguably best invention so far. Though there have been consistent improvements in the technology related to computers, the basic operation holds the same purpose. Some people will get surprised to read that the first known use of the word computer was way back in 1613 in a book called ‘The Young Mans Gleanings’ by English writer Richard Braithwait. This use of the term was referring to a human-computer who carried out calculations or computations. . This term lasted for humans till mid of the 20th century. Another surprising thing is that till 1943, most human computers were women.

What is a computer?

A computer is a machine that carries out the sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically via computer programming. Modern computers follow programs, generalized set of operations. A complete computer includes hardware, the operating system (software), and supporting equipment. An extremely wide range of tasks can be done by computer because of programming.

In earlier years the abacus was replaced by a computer for doing calculations only. Later slowly the other techniques came into operation by computer programming. Some mechanical devices were programmed to do some tiring work. a conventional computer consists of a central processing unit in the form of a metal-oxide-semiconductor microprocessor along with semiconductor memory chips. In the late 1940s, the first semiconductor transistors were developed and later it turned to silicon-based MOSFET (MOS transistor). This was during the World War II. The computer carries out the arithmetic and logical operations, and the sequencing and control unit can change the order of operation. Supporting input devices are keyboard, joystick, mouse, etc and output devices are monitor, printer, etc.

Definition of Computer:

According to the modern era, the computer can be defined as a machine, or device that performs calculations, processes, and operations based on the information provided by a software or hardware program. It accepts inputs (data), processes it, and produces output. Over time, with new technology, the computer has evolved as the heart of the modern days operations. The vast capability of its usage has made the tasks much more convenient. Previously, those tasks had to be done manually and were time-consuming. The ability of the computer to store data and use later as and when required has extended a big helping hand for many works.

Applications and design of computer:

Modern computer is being used for a wide range of purposes like web designing, creating new apps, playing games, watching videos, writing documents, etc. whenever you see a computer picture, you can see a monitor with different sizes within 14 to 17 inches. Monitors are where you see the activities of the computer.

The utilization of computer programming was done during World War II. To crack the encryption of German Lorenz SZ 40/42, a relatively modern computer Colossus was developed.

The computer of today is available in many shapes and sizes. Remember that the ATM’s, scanners, smart TV’s are also a computer, though by mention of word computer only desktops or laptops come to mind. To understand what is a computer, we can study below –

A computer a two primary parts


The physical structure of a computer hosts processor, memory, communication port, storage, and other supporting devices. Each of these devices does a different function like mike and mouse as input devices and a monitor or speaker is output devices. There is a hard disk for the storage of the data.

Processor (CPU)

CPU is a component that processes and executes inputs from hardware and software.


Motherboard in a computer is a basic connection between all the hardware components and devices (internal and external)

Memory (RAM)

This is the temporary space for data storage which is used by the CPU.

Also Read – To Know More About RAM

Storage Device

It is a permanent data storage space. It is slower but more stable than RAM.

Power Supply Unit

A power plug without which the computer system cannot work.


Applications, programs, data, protocols, etc are all part of the software. Typically, computer software will include all executable and non-executable data, such as libraries, digital media, documents, online information, etc. The OS (operating system) and all its applications of the computer are also software. 

Computers are classified as personal computers (PC), laptop computers, desktop computers, minicomputers, handheld computers, and devices, mainframes, or supercomputers, according to capacity, computing power, size, mobility, and other factors.

Range of Computer Definition:

From time to time, there were some inventions in the computer field. This led to the generation of many definitions of the computer. The definitions varied majorly depending on the utilization field of the computers. We will see some of these definitions to understand how computer usage was done for different purposes –

  1. The definition of a computer is a person or an electronic device that makes and stores quick calculations or processes information.
  2. One who computes / A person who computes
  3. A device that computes, especially a programmable electronic machine that performs high-speed mathematical or logical operations or that assembles, stores, correlates, or otherwise processes information.
  4. A device used for computing and otherwise processing information; an electronic machine which, using stored instructions and information, is used to perform rapid, often complex calculations, compile and correlate data, download and play audio and video communications, access the World Wide Web, send and receive mail, etc; now, esp., digital computer.
  5. A programmable machine that that performs high-speed processing of numbers, as well as texts, graphics, symbols, and sound. All computers contain a central processing unit that interprets and executes instructions; input devices such as a keyboard and a mouse, through which data and command enters the computer; memory that enables the computer to store program and data; and output devices, such as printers and display screens, that show the results after the computer has processed the data.
  6. A programmable electronic device that performs mathematical calculations and logical operations, especially one that can process, store, and retrieve large amounts of data very quickly; now especially, a small one for personal or home use employed for manipulating text or graphics, accessing the internet, or playing games, or media (from 2oth c)

If you keenly study all the definitions you will realize that all the definitions state about the basic purpose of computer but the applications are much wider. When the computer was built it was for only one specific reason, but the scientists found it a platform to spread the wings in all the possible fields. The microprocessors were worked over again and again based on the requirement and a multipurpose computer was developed.

Functioning of Computer

Analog Computer:

The analog computer was built for complex computations. It used a direct electrical and mechanical model of the problem. Since these were made for different purposes, it lacked the programming capability. A tide-predicting-machine was the first analog modern computer made by Sir William Thompson in 1872. In 19876, the differential analyzer, a mechanical analog computer was designed by James Thompson. After that till 1950, many improvisations were made by other scientists H. L. Hazen, Vannevar Bush, and H. W. Nieman. Even after the invention of digital electronic computers in the 1950s, the usage of analog computing machines continued in the field of education (slide rule) and aircraft (control system)

Digital Computers – Electromechanical:

Torpedo Data Computer, was the first electromechanical computer developed by the United States Navy in 1938. It was developed to solve a problem in firing a torpedo on a moving object. This was based on trigonometry. Since these types of computers were based on electrical switches driving mechanical relays, the speed was very slow. Konrad Zuse, a German engineer, in 1939, created earlier electromechanical relay computer Z2.  Zuse then developed Z3, the first programmable electromechanical computer. He used 22 relays and inserting a 22-bit word length.

Vacuum Tubes and Digital Electronic Circuits:

During the above period, Tommy Flowers, an engineer working at the Post Office Research Station in London was exploring the possibility of using electronic circuits for the telephone exchange, in the 1930s. He was permitted to use the portion of the telephone exchange network into an electronic data processing system. The work he started in the 1934’s, was brought into operation five years later. Thousands of vacuum tubes were used by Tommy Flowers to develop this data processing system.

The first ‘automatic electronic digital computer’ was developed by John Vincent Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry. They used around 300 vacuum tubes and capacitors fixed in a mechanically rotating drum for memory.

During World War II, many successful attempts were made to breach the encrypted German military communications. Max Nieman and his associates deputed Tommy Flowers to develop Colossus, the world’s first electronic digital programmable computer. It consisted of a large number of vacuum tubes and had paper-tape input. It was capable of performing a number of Boolean logical operations on its data, but it was not Turing-complete. Two parts of Colossi were built as Mark I and Mark II. Mark II had 2400 vacuum tubes in comparison to 1500 in Mark I. Mark II was 5 times faster than Mark I.

The Bottom Line

The computer has been evolved as the greatest technology in the world and there is no country in the world now that is not using a computer. The technology of computer is developing leaps and bound. Understanding the need for knowledge one needs to have, the modern countries are encouraging schools to give the children basic knowledge about computers. We can see the results at a very young age; the children are developing new programs. The computer has opened a great window of education as everything you want to know, is available at a ‘click’ distance.

Like most of the technologies, the computer does have both sides of the coin, but again it depends on the person to decide which way he wants to use the computer knowledge. At this stage of the computer world do you know what would be the final form of computer technology?

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