What is a computer

A computer is a machine. Like every machine, it was designed, invented and built to help men take care of some specific tasks in a faster and more reliable way. In the case of a computer, the task is dealing with information.

The first computer was completed in 1946 and was called ENIAC. ENIAC could be programmed to follow instructions and help with complex mathematical operations. It was even used for military ends. Today, computers can carry out millions of instructions per second, helping mankind carry out a variety of tasks in a faster, more reliable way than our human, prone-to-mistake, brains.

Computers work carrying out instructions. Instruction codes are stored in programs and in disks until needed.

How computers work

After opening a computer, you will see different electronic cards, chips and wiring, but let's stay away from complicated explanations for now. It's easier to understand that computers need three things to work properly:

+ a place to store the information, the drives
+ a place to process the instructions it receives, the processor and the memory
+ devices to interact with the user, the peripherals (screen, keyboard, scanner, printer, etc.)

When you turn on a computer, first, it carries out a general check, called POST. If everything is OK, it continues and calls the first set of programs: its operating system.

The operating system, among others, will recognise all the parts connected to the computer and prepare them to follow the user instructions. Once the computer has loaded, it awaits its first command.

The user will use input devices to run programs (double-clicking an icon, for example). When you do this, the computer will place a copy of the file into short-term memory, carry out its instructions and continue loading all the necessary additional instructions until completing everything it is requested to do. When that is done, it gives a result and waits again to receive the next instruction.

Yes, computers, down deep, are that simple.

Continue with... How to buy a computer for tips on acquiring one.
If you already have a computer, you might like to continue with... The operating system

Knowledge + Computers