A computer is a device that processes data according to a set of instructions called a
program. Most modern computers are electronic and digital. The machinery
of computers, such as the circuitry and wires, is known as hardware; the
instructions and data are called software.
All general-purpose computers have the following hardware components:
- memory : Enables a computer to store, at least temporarily, data and
- mass storage device : Allows a computer to permanently retain large
amounts of data. Common mass storage devices include disk drives and
- 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
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.
|Expert predictions that went wrong
|"I think there's a world market for maybe five computers.
– Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM (1943)
"There is no reason why anyone would want to have a computer in their
– Ken Olsen, president of Digital Equipment
"640 K [of computer memory] ought be enough for anybody."
– Bill Gates (1981)
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
- 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
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, AND CYBERNETICS