A computer is not an acronym and sometimes abbreviated as comp or 'puter. The term "computer" was originally given to humans who performed numerical calculations using mechanical calculators, such as the abacus and slide rule. The term was later given to a mechanical device as they began replacing the human computers. Today's computers are electronic devices that accept data (input), process that data, produce output, and then store (storage) the results.
The first digital computer and what most people think of as a computer was called the ENIAC, built during World War II (1943-1946). Early computers like the ENIAC used vacuum tubes and were large (sometimes room size) and only found in businesses, Universities, or governments. Later, computers began utilizing transistors as well as smaller and cheaper parts that allowed the common person to own a computer.
Today, computers help make jobs that used to be complicated much simpler. For example, a user can write letters in a word processor, edit any portion of the letter anytime, spell check the letter, print multiple copies of that letter, and even send that letter to someone across the world in a matter of seconds. All of these activities would have taken someone days, if not months, to do before computers. Also, all of the above is just a small fraction of what computers can do.
What components make up a computer?
Today's computers have some or all of the below components (hardware). As technology advances, older technologies, such as a floppy disk drive and Zip drive (both shown below), are no longer required or included with computers.
- Case or Chassis
- Case Fan
- Optical drive: Blu-ray, CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, or DVD
- CPU (processor)
- Floppy disk drive
- Hard drive
- Memory (RAM)
- Monitor, LCD, or other display device
- Network card
- Power Supply
- Sound card
- Video card
Inside of the computer
A diagram of the back of a personal computer and a brief description of the computer connections can also be found on our connection definition.
A peripheral is any accessory or add-on that can be attached to your computer, but is not required. For example, a computer printer is a perfect example of a peripheral. See the peripheral definition for a full list of peripherals that can be attached to your computer.
Variations of computers
When talking about a computer or a "PC", you are usually referring to a traditional computer that you would find in a home or office. Today, however, the lines of what makes a computer are blurring. Below are all the different examples of what is considered a computer today.
- Console (e.g. Xbox and PS3)
- Diskless workstation and Thin client
- Embedded computers - The most commonly found and used computer. An embedded computer is a computer with a specific function found in such things as cars, microwaves, TVs, the VCR, and other home electronics.
- Laptop, portable, notebook computer
- Mainframe or Supercomputer
- Personal computer (aka desktop and home computer)
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- Basic computer troubleshooting.
- Additional information with installing computer hardware.
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- All computer questions and answers.