What is a Computer? Functions and Characteristics of Computer: Computers have made great inroads in our everyday life. Computer is the most powerful and versatile tool and have found place in almost every home, every office and workplace.
Computers are put to use for all sorts of applications ranging from complex calculations in the field or frontline research, engineering, printing books and recreational games.
Therefore, it is essential for every educated person today to be computer literate and know about the capabilities and limitations of computers.
Computers are now affecting every sphere of human activity and bringing about many changes in our daily life.
WHAT IS A COMPUTER?
A computer is an electronic device that can process data to give information i.e., it can perform a variety of operations in accordance with a set of instructions.
The word computer is derived from the word ‘Compute’ which means to calculate. But in today’s scenario a computer can handle many application at a time.
A computer is also known as data processor because computer processes data to give information.
Data is plural form of datum, meaning fact. It can be defined as raw material of information that can be represented by words, symbols, quantities etc.
Data represented in useful and meaningful form is known as information. So we can say information is the result of data processing where data is arranged in an order.
Computer Related Terms
Hardware represents the physical and tangible components of the computer. i.e. the components that can be seen and touched.
Input devices, output devices, floppy disk, hard disk etc. are examples of computer hardware.
Software represents the set of program that governs the operation in a computer system and make the hardware run.
Functions of a Computer
A computer collects, processes, stores and outputs information in the following order :
Computer accepts the input given by the user. It can be in the form of data or information. Instructions (commands) are given to computer to operate on the data.
It can be a single command to perform some operation or it can be a set of instructions to perform a series of steps. This set of instructions is called a program.
Processing is the sequential steps required in executing the data and instructions to bring meaningful result.
The processing is done by the CPU that executes instructions to process data.
Storage and Retrieval:
The information can be stored in the memory of computer and it can be retrieved whenever required.
Final results or output that user gets after processing either on the monitor (softcopy) or as a printout (hardcopy).
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CHARACTERISTICS AND LIMITATIONS OF COMPUTERS
- Speed and Time: Computer work at an amazing speed without any mistakes. The work, which a normal person would take to complete in few hours, can be done within fraction of seconds by a computer.
- Accuracy: In addition to its high speed, computer performs its task with great accuracy. Computer never commit mistakes in processing the data.
- Reliability: Computer are more reliable than human beings as they never get bored of the repetitive tasks given to them and never get tired.
- Storage Capacity: Computers can store large amount of data. It can store various documents, articles, pictures etc. in its memory, which can be retrieved whenever required. Various storage devices like floppy disk, CD are used to store the information.
- Versatility: A computer can perform various types of jobs with high accuracy, which is otherwise difficult for human beings to do so. On a computer we can listen songs while typing document in MS words or while working on any other package.
- Reduction in Manpower: Earlier, the work in industries/factories was done by the number of persons, but now it can be completed with a few persons on computer and that too more accurately.
- Do not Get Tired: A computer can operate for long hours without taking rest and provides high accuracy in results.
- No Decision-making power: Computers are not able to make any decision. Human beings assist the computer to take the decision.
- No Intelligence: A computer does not has any intelligence of its own, which is God gift to human beings. It can work according to the instructions given by human beings.
- No learning power: Computer cannot learn from past experiences, where as human beings can relate the new situations with the past experience to bring better results.
- No Emotion and Feelings: Computers are far away from emotions and certainly beings machine they can’t have feelings and instincts.
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