Computer and its Characteristics

What is a Computer?

Computer literally means a tool or equipment or machine that computes or does calculations. The definition covers all sorts of computing equipment like abacus counting tables, slide-rule, Napier’s bones, and decimal logarithms, pocket and desk calculators, mainframes, mini, and microcomputers. Computers of yesteryears were devices capable of only accepting data, solving problems, and supplying the results. Nowadays computer practically is a device that can process, store, and retrieve automatically (i.e. it can call back any data from its memory) miscellaneous information which may be of audio, visual, or linguistic type.

Computers perform only three basic functions:

  • Do arithmetic calculations i.e. addition, subtraction, multiplication, and its reciprocal (i.e. division).
  • Compare values.
  • Store, search, and retrieve.

It should be very clearly understood that although a computer essentially does all the above functions automatically, it does not possess any intelligence of its own. Its intelligence quotient or IQ is zero i.e. it does not have any thinking, arguing, or decision-making power of its own. This power is intelligently conferred to it by proper programming methods by the persons handling it. Let us see where the computer stands in comparison to the human brain.

Characteristics of Computer:

(1) Speed- Computers process data at an extremely fast rate, with millions of instructions per second. In a few seconds, a computer can perform such a huge task that a normal human being may take days or even years to complete. Note that the speed of a computer is calculated in MHz (Megahertz), that is, one million instructions per second.

(2) Precision and Diligence- Computers perform computations and various other operations with an unerring accuracy. This is because computers do not ‘tire’ as human do, so they can perform their function without compromising efficiency. For example, if six million calculations have to be performed, the computer will perform the last six-millionth calculation with the same accuracy and speed as the first calculation.

(3) Reliability- The computer’s performance can be measured in terms of reliability. Reliability is the ability to perform some predetermined standard operations without any failure. Computers have built-in diagnostic capabilities that help in continuous monitoring of the system.

(4) Storage Capability- The computer has huge storage capability. It can recall the required information almost instantaneously. Computer has two types of storage devices primary storage where data can be stored temporarily while secondary or auxiliary storage devices are used for permanent storage. The data from these devices can be accessed and brought into the main memory of the computer, as and when required for processing.

(5) Versatility- Computers are flexible and versatile in nature. Computers are capable of performing various tasks at a time simultaneously. At one moment it can be used to have voice chat through Skype, at the other moment it can be used to surf documents on the internet and print a document.

(6) Multitasking- Computers can perform multiple tasks simultaneously with ease. For example, it can be used to draft a letter, play music, and print a document simultaneously.

(7) Connectivity- Two or more computers can be connected together. This provides an easy sharing of data and resources.

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