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What is a Computer?

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Define Computer

Computers are used in many fields like banking, medicine, finance and education with increased preference. With the growth of artificial intelligence, computers will soon blur lines between man and machine.

Under such circumstances, a rudimentary knowledge of computers is essential for everyday work. For those who are not yet familiar with computers, now is the time to gain knowledge about this field. As children will be living with this scenario in future, their employment capability will be tested against computers. To make them future-ready, it is essential to prepare them for this inevitability.

You may have been using your computer for ages without knowing what its essential components, history, or even computer definition are. But now with your children ready to take the next step into learning computers, you may be beset by various questions that you cannot seem to answer.

This article is for those parents and their children who want to know what a computer is and what its various components are?


Definition of a Computer

While you may have seen and used a computer but you may still be unable to answer what is computer correctly. There are many ways of defining a computer. The first and most standard definition is that a computer is something which computes or calculates. It is a machine that takes in raw data and performs some calculations on it and gives us the formed output in the desired format.

Computer is also a device that stores as well as processes information electronically. Computers usually come in different sizes and grades of functionalities.


Brief History of Computers

This journey of computers began in 1822 with Charles Babbage’s analytical engine, which was used to compute the product of numbers. Lady Ada Lovelace, considered to be the world’s first programmer, helped with the programming of the analytical engine.

Around a hundred years later, Alan Turing presented a concept of a universal machine which could theoretically compute anything.

Then J.V. Atanasoff, from the University of Iowa, actually made the first attempt to build a computer. But the first concrete effort came from two University of Pennsylvania professors who built the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator) which filled an entire room and had around 18,000 vacuum tubes.

Two years later, a green light for building UNIVAC came from the US government to make the first computer for commercial and business applications. Then came a fundamental design switch to transistors a year later when transistors replaced vacuum tubes. This paved the way for integrated circuits which form the processor chip of modern computers.

In 1953, the first programming language COBOL was developed, and FORTRAN followed it up. But the shift of computers beyond the scientific world came in 1964 when Douglas Engelbart showed a computer prototype with a mouse and a Graphical User Interface. It made computers user friendly and made them favourable for general use.

Following this, there was a parabolic rise in the development of computers with Bell Laboratories, IBM and Apple Inc. They made significant headways into the development of computers.

Apple announced the new personal computers that eventually took over the market in 1976. This was followed up by Microsoft’s Windows. These two significant companies prove to be the game changers in the personal computer field, and the rest is history.


Types of Computers

Computers can be differentiated based on their modes of functioning as well as their size and functionality. Here they have been divided into different types of computers without considering any of these factors.

  1. Analogue

These are old models of computers that work on the continuous analogue signals rather than discrete signals. They are not very accurate but extremely fast.

  1. Digital

Computers that use this binary system of counting using electrical pulses of ON and OFF are known as digital computers. They function on discrete values and are generally more accurate.

  1. Hybrid

Computers that have features of both digital and analogue computers are known as hybrid computers. The analogue part of a computer handles very complicated mathematical computations while digital components handle these numerical and logical systems.

  1. Mainframes

Mainframe computers are computers that are accessed simultaneously by several thousands of people at once. They are used in fields of banking and telecom where they have to handle millions of requests together in minimal time.

  1. Supercomputers

These massive computers are used in the fields of engineering and scientific computations. They usually perform over a million instructions per second.

  1. Servers

Servers are large repositories of information. They supply information to any computer that is on the same network as them. Many people access servers at the same time so servers need to handle large amounts of traffic.

  1. Workstation

This type of computer that scientists and engineers may be familiar with is called the workstation. It is generally used in scientific applications and has a faster microprocessor along with a spacious memory.

  1. Microcomputer

This last type of computer is a microcomputer which is nothing but a personal computer that you use at home. These computers are built for light use such as listening to music, or playing movies or accessing the internet.

This list concludes various types of computers that are available right now the world over.


Basics of a Computer

Computer basics should be known to everybody who has ever used a computer. A computer is a device that computes some raw data and turns it into meaningful information.

Computer systems consist mainly of two parts. They are hardware and software. The hardware is electronic circuitry that helps to compute the mathematical computations, and the software is the programs that help the hardware to compute. Software is further subdivided into two parts, the operating systems and applications programs. The operating system runs the computer hardware and helps us to communicate with the computer while software applications that we run further perform useful tasks for us.


Hardware vs Software

These are the primary divisions of the computer system.

While discussing the computer definition, we understand that there are two broad divisions of the computer. They are the hardware and the software. The hardware is that part of the computer that we can physically see, feel, touch. They include the input and output devices as well as the processor chip itself.

While the software is those programs which perform tasks, for example, the very browser that you are using to view this program is a software. Software is of two types. One is the operating system like Windows and LINUX, and the other part is the application software like MS Office, games, internet browsers etc. The computer without the software is nothing but a dumb machine. The software is what makes the computer useful to humans.

The computer's meaning should be clear to you now.



Computer hardware is the physical parts of a computer device. Hardware can be replaced if broken or as per needs. Hardware can also be seen as the machinery or primary electronic part of the computer devices. These are used to build up the computer and bring it into a usable condition. For Example- Monitors, Central Processing Unit (CPU), etc.



Software in a computer system is a programming code that is executed on a computer processor to fulfill the required task. It is a set of programs and procedures that can perform the given tasks. Softwares is generally written or designed in high-level programming languages which are also readable by non-technical people and the user of the computer. 

The high-level languages of software are converted to machine language instructions which can be understood by the computer to follow. These are represented in the form of binary code  (0s and 1s) which is understood by the device. The installation of software occurs in the machine language or binary code.  

Types of Softwares

Software in a computer is divided into 2 parts. They are as follows-

  • System Softwares – System software is software in a computer that operates directly on hardware gadgets of the computer. The system software in a computer can be seen as a platform to use or run an application. It helps to use the system itself and run the hardware of the computer. System software is mostly pre-installed on the new computers. For Example- UnixWindows, etc. 

  • Application Softwares – Application Softwares are software that is created for users to complete different tasks on the given computer system. Application Softwares can either be already installed in the computer device or can be installed later from to web or other sources. For Example- Games, Microsoft Word, WhatsApp, etc.


Key Parts of a Computer

The key components of a computer are the CPU, input and output devices, memory, storage devices and the motherboard. Knowing what a computer is is impossible without knowing its structural basics. Hence here is a brief look at the various components that make up a computer.

  • Central Processing Unit

Also known as the heart of the computer, the CPU can be equated to the human brain. It is a chip that has all the electrical circuits embedded in it which are responsible for reading, executing and storing programs.

  • Input Devices

Devices through which one can feed the computer, some meaningful information is known as the input devices. For example, a keyboard is an input device through which we key in data for the computer to process.

  • Output Devices

Devices through which the computer shows the output of its computation are known as output devices. For example, the screen on which appears the results is an output device.

  • Memory

The place where programs and executable instructions are stored is called memory. Usually, this memory is stored on the CPU.

  • Storage Devices

Storage devices are those devices that read or store data — For example, hard drive. The place where information is stored is known as storage media.

  • Motherboard

Mainboard on which memory, CPU, and other peripherals are connected is known as the motherboard.

These are the various components of a computer system that are critical to its functioning. Every computer, to be meaningful, needs to have these parts.

After understanding computer meaning, you should be able to identify the various components of the computer. It would be best if you also understood how computers were developed and what the benefits of using the computer are.


Benefits of Using a Computer

The benefits of using a computer are plenty. A computer is a machine that can accomplish so many tasks on a user's behalf, that it is impossible to do without it nowadays. Anyone knowing the computer basics will know that computers are highly time-saving and useful to have.

Listed here are five reasons why you should use a computer.

  1. Computers Can Work 24 x 7

Since computers need electricity to run, they are capable of working without tiring. Same work will take more time if done by a person than if performed by a computer. For example, take the preparation of payslips for employees. A person and a computer can do the same work. But a computer will not tire nor make mistakes, which is quite possible for a person to do.

  1. Computers Connect a Person to the Internet

Nowadays, the new market place is the internet. Buying, selling, and advertising as well as interacting with friends have shifted online. So, how can you take advantage of this new giant? The only way to access the internet is through a computer. The internet is also a storehouse of information which can be accessed in the blink of an eye.

  1. Stores a Vast Amount of Information

Those who know what a computer is know that with the rise in technology computers can store information in the order of terabytes. This amount is enough to save around 250 movies. So, imagine the vast information that you can have stored on the computer. Memory nowadays is cheaply available, so pictures, videos, music, and documents can all be stored on the computer at a cheap price.

  1. Saves Time

The most critical computer basics are that the device saves time. Doing any computation on the computer saves you the time and the hassle of getting the task done. For example, preparing the monthly budget for a home can be easily accomplished on the computer in a matter of minutes, and the work is carried out not only efficiently but is also done correctly.

  1. Computers Can Help You Make Money

If you are setting up a company of your own, you can use computers to connect to the internet and create a broader audience base. Knowing how to work with computers is a skill that is significantly in demand as many businesses have integrated their work in tandem with computers. Programmers and coders are some of the highest paid jobs in the market at present.

These benefits are sufficient reasons to use computers on a day to day basis to solve many problems that confront us. Hopefully, now you may have some idea of what the computer means.

Also, the definition of a computer system should be clear to you. With this basic understanding, you can systematically further your study of computers. As our future looms large, computers are set to take over the world. They will define the manner in which one does business as well as to conduct their personal lives, so now is the time to gain as much knowledge about them so that you stay relevant.


What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud Computing refers to the on-time delivery of diverse services with the use of the Internet in one's device. Cloud Computing contains many tools and applications which can help one do their job with the internet. Some services of Cloud Computing are data storage, servers, databases, etc

In Cloud Computing, a cloud-based storage facility makes it possible to save them to a remote database rather than maintaining files on hard drives or local storage devices. As long as the given electronic device has access to the high-speed internet, it can access the data and the software programs stored in the cloud.

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FAQs on What is a Computer?

1. What is a Computer?

A computer is an electronic device that can store, process, and retrieve data. Usually, it can perform a variety of tasks which makes life more comfortable. Computers execute instructions which are written in a programming language. It mainly consists of two parts, hardware and software.

Hardware refers to the processor chip, input and output devices that function on electrical signals. Software is that part of a computer that runs on hardware and makes the computer a meaningful device with which humans can interact. Above the software, there are application programs which do a whole host of tasks like play music, solve problems, and display output.

2. What are the Two Types of Computers?

Computers are divided into two parts. They are differentiated based on their fundamental basis of operation. They are analogue and digital computers. The analogue computers work on the principle of  the continuous physical quantities like pressure or temperature, but digital computers work on the principle of discrete electrical signals. Modern computers that are used by everyone are known as the digital computers. They are slower than analogue computers. The analogue computers are obsolete except for their use in flight simulators.

Furthermore, you can avail all the well-researched and good quality chapters, sample papers, syllabus on various topics from the website of Vedantu and its mobile application available on the play store. 

3. What is a Basic Computer?

Computers are divided into four necessary components. These are input, output, processor and memory. Input for a computer is those devices through which information is fed to computers, for example, mouse and keyboard. Outputs are those devices through which results of any processing are displayed like screen or a printer. The part of the computer where main processing is done is called the Central Processing Unit (CPU) and it is usually a microprocessor chip. And finally, the memory which holds all programs. Memory can be of two types, primary memory which is attached to the processor chip and secondary memory which is kept off the processor chip.

4. What is the difference between RAM and ROM?

RAM(Random Access Memory) is a computer memory that can be read and changed to store operating data and machine codes while ROM (Read Only Memory) is a computer memory that can be only read and can not be altered or erased. The difference between RAM(Random Access Memory) and ROM (Read Only Memory) are as follows-

  • RAM is faster than ROM.

  • RAM is more expensive than ROM.

  • The data stored on RAM can be used and processed by the Central Processing Unit(CPU) while in the case of ROM, the Central Processing Unit needs to access the data, the data is first transferred to the RAM of the computer and then the Central Processing Unit uses and processes the required data.

  • RAM has a higher capacity than ROM

  • RAM can be read, changed, and erased while the ROM of a computer can only be read.

  • The data stored in RAM is volatile which means that it will only exist until there is no disruption in the power supply while the data in ROM is permanent and remains unchanged in times of interruption in the power supply.

5. What are the major differences between Virus and Malware?

Malware (Malicious Software) in a computer, plans to affect the host computer which means that it is made to get unauthorized access to the computer. While a computer Virus( Vital Information Resource Under Siege) is a type of malware that corrupts files of the computer and then extends when the program is used. The differences between a virus and malware in a computer are as follows-

  • Anti Malware is software that can be used to deal with the harmful malware in the computer while there is Antivirus software, which is used to remove all the viruses in the computer.

  • Malware is mostly used to benefit a third party while a virus is a code that connects itself to various applications and programs of the computer to infect it.

  • Symptoms of computers with malware attacks are stolen important data like credit card numbers or passwords, or performing uninitiated and unwanted tasks on the computer. Symptoms of a computer with viruses are a decrease in the processing speed of the computer, unwanted pop ups coming up without control, or the passwords getting reset on their own. 

  • Trojan and Virus are some examples of Malware while Spacefiller and Marco are some examples of computer viruses.