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Definition Links Links rule
computer
Last modified: May 14, 1998

A programmable machine. The two principal characteristics of a computer are:

  • It responds to a specific set of instructions in a well-defined manner.
  • Modern computers are electronic and digital. The actual machinery -- wires, transistors, and circuits -- is called hardware; the instructions and data are called software.

    All general-purpose computers require the following hardware components:

  • memory : Enables a computer to store, at least temporarily, data and programs.
  • mass storage device : Allows a computer to permanently retain large amounts of data. Common mass storage devices include disk drives and tape drives.
  • input device : Usually a keyboard and mouse, the input device is the conduit through which data and instructions enter a computer.
  • output device : A display screen, printer, or other device that lets you see what the computer has accomplished.
  • central processing unit (CPU): The heart of the computer, this is the component that actually executes instructions.
  • In addition to these components, many others make it possible for the basic components to work together efficiently. For example, every computer requires a bus that transmits data from one part of the computer to another.

    Computers can be generally classified by size and power as follows, though there is considerable overlap:

  • personal computer : A small, single-user computer based on a microprocessor. In addition to the microprocessor, a personal computer has a keyboard for entering data, a monitor for displaying information, and a storage device for saving data.
  • workstation : A powerful, single-user computer. A workstation is like a personal computer, but it has a more powerful microprocessor and a higher-quality monitor.
  • minicomputer : A multi-user computer capable of supporting from 10 to hundreds of users simultaneously.
  • mainframe : A powerful multi-user computer capable of supporting many hundreds or thousands of users simultaneously.
  • supercomputer : An extremely fast computer that can perform hundreds of millions of instructions per second.
  • See Also
    CPU
    hardware
    mainframe
    microprocessor
    minicomputer
    personal computer
    software
    supercomputer
    workstation

    Links Links Links rule

    Legend

    Building Your Own PC Award Winning Page
    What hard-core techies and companies like Dell and Compaq have been doing for years is what any computer user can learn how to do - build a computer from scratch. Let SE take you on a stroll through the park and ease the pain of building a DIY PC.

    Computers: The Past, Present, and Future
    Site dedicated to the history of computers. Also includes a tutorial on computer hardware and ideas on the future of computing.

    IEEE's Computer magazine
    Monthly magazine received by all members of the IEEE Computer Society. Offers articles of interest to computing professionals, computer scientists and engineers. Updated on Aug 5, 1998

    Price Watch - street price search engine
    Offers a way to find prices on computer products (systems, CPU, memory, storage, networking, multimedia, etc.) from many manufacturers. Prices are entered by the manufacturer using a proprietary Price Watch Info-Link system. Users then see a date and time posting with each product chosen. Updated on Jan 31, 1998


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