Understanding computers/computing

What is a computer? It is a super-fast machine (or gadget) that performs routine calculations. A computer is responsible for performing calculations with great speed and reliability. For the computer performing these calculations are easy while for us they are not. Beside the basic function of making calculations, the advance of technology has enabled computers to provide many services for many people.

Computers are designed to perform routine tasks as dictated by its software. Computers came into existence in the 1940s with limited use (or applications). Today, however, computers have become an integral part of our world and computer use is growing everywhere. You can find computers or devices with embedded microcomputers everywhere. You don’t have to look hard to find a computer in use. Computers can easily be spotted in offices, homes, government sites, and industries. Telephones, entertainment systems, kitchen appliances, automobiles, etc. all use microcomputers yet we may have never noticed this.

Computers help us function in many vital ways although we are not always aware of this. Think about the last phone call you made. For your call to complete, several computers may have been involved. Your telephone itself has a tiny computer chip that remembers the names and numbers. If your phone is GPS-enabled, that is an example of how much more computer functionality your phone supports. A computer in your local telephone company may also be involved in establishing a connection for your call. If you were calling an operator, the computer on the other side may answer with a human voice and recognize your voice prompts. If you were calling a friend, your friend’s telephone is also somehow functioning with computer chips (for instance, to make the ringing sound, pressing a button to accept your call, etc.).

Other examples of computer use today include:

  • shopping, research, socializing, and communicating
  • linking with internet technologies of schools, people, business, and governments throughout the worlds
  • scanning of bar codes at checkout counters
  • tracking of store inventories
  • controlling of traffic lights
  • playing of music or videos on your entertainment systems
  • reading from e-book (digital) devices
  • providing you cash at ATM (Automated Teller Machine)

The most powerful computer available is a supercomputer. A supercomputer, as the name suggests, is not an ordinary computer. It handles complex tasks and processes massive amounts of information. No, we don't use supercomputers every day. They are rather used by engineers and scientists.

We commonly use computer systems such as desktops, laptops, and handheld devices. A desktop, or personal computer, is used by one person at a home, office, or school. This type of computer is referred to as desktop because it usually sits on a desk, as opposed to on your laptop.

A desktop computer is not designed for mobile users; it is rather designed for you to keep the computer at one place as long as you wish. If you want a mobile computer that you can take with you to your school or office, a laptop is the answer because it can be carried in briefcase. With a laptop, you can take your work, pictures, videos, files, and anything else digitally stored with you anywhere you go. A laptop can run on a battery for hours so it can be used while waiting for a train, airplane, or just about anywhere else. This obviously cannot be done with a desktop (although their physical size is reduced) - carrying around the monitor, PC-unit, keyboard, and a mouse is not very practical or convenient.

Handheld devices are what you can hold in your hand. Don't think they cannot do what a computer can do. A handheld device will let you do many things, read Word documents or PDF documents, send emails, send text messages, and many other uses. The main limitations of a handheld device are that it has a very small screen and no easy to use keyboard.

Because of the small screen, a lot of scrolling has to be done to see longer items. If you decide to watch a video on a handheld device, everything you will see is very small. Although a mobile can do many things a computer can, a mobile device is not a replacement for a desktop or laptop computer.

A server is another type of computer. When you request a webpage, it is brought to you with a help of a server computer (also called web server).

Think of a server as a chef at your favorite restaurant. To give you the meal, the chef has to prepare your food to your indicated taste. Likewise, when you request a web page, the server prepares the page for your viewing. The server may connect to a database to retrieve your account information, store your payment information, and do all sorts of things in response to your clicks.

Posted on 5/20/2007
by Raj Singh