A computer is not an acronym and is 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, produces output, and then store (storage) the results.
The first computer was called the ENIAC, which was built during World War II (1943-1946). These early computers used vacuum tubes and were very 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 their own computer. This history of computers and related topics can be found on our history page.
Today, computers help make jobs that used to be complicated much simpler. For example, a user can write letters in a word processor and edit any portion of the letter anytime, spell check the letter, and move text from another document into the letter, etc. This is just one of the millions of different things a computer is capable of doing.
What components make a computer?
Today's computers are often comprised with some or all of the below components (hardware). As technology advances, older technologies such as the floppy disk drive and Zip drive (both shown below) are no longer required or included with computers.
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. However, today the lines of what makes a computer are blurring. Below, are all the different examples of what is considered a computer today.
- 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.
- Personal computer (aka Desktop)
- Laptop, portable, notebook computer
- Smart phone
- Diskless workstation and Thin client
- Mainframe or Supercomputer
- How does a computer work?
- Desktop computer buying tips.
- How do I setup a new computer?
- Basic computer troubleshooting.
- Additional information with installing computer hardware.
- When was the first computer invented?
- What makes a computer fast and powerful?
- All computer questions and answers.