A computer is a programmable machine. The two principal characteristics of a computer are: It responds to a specific set of instructions in a well-defined manner and it can execute a prerecorded list of instructions (a program).
Modern Computers Defined
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 solid state drives (SSDs) or 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.
Computer Classification: By Size and Power
Most people associate a personal computer (PC) with the phrase computer. A PC is a small and relatively inexpensive computer designed for an individual use. PCs are based on the microprocessor technology that enables manufacturers to put an entire CPU on one chip.
Personal computers at home can be used for a number of different applications including games, word processing, accounting and other tasks.
Computers are generally classified by size and power as follows, although there is considerable overlap. The differences between computer classifications generally get smaller as technology advances, creating smaller and more powerful and cost-friendly components.
Recommended Reading: Webopedia's Computer Architecture Study Guide is an introduction to computer system basics.
IT Solutions Builder TOP IT RESOURCES TO MOVE YOUR BUSINESS FORWARD
Which topic are you interested in?
What is your company size?
What is your job title?
What is your job function?
Searching our resource database to find your matches...
Stay up to date on the latest developments in Internet terminology with a free weekly newsletter from Webopedia. Join to subscribe now.
The following facts and statistics capture the changing landscape of cloud computing and how service providers and customers are keeping up with... Read More »SEO Dictionary
From keyword analysis to backlinks and Google search engine algorithm updates, our search engine optimization glossary lists 85 SEO terms you need... Read More »Texting & Chat Abbreviations
From A3 to ZZZ this guide lists 1,500 text message and online chat abbreviations to help you translate and understand today's texting lingo. Read More »
Java is a high-level programming language. This guide describes the basics of Java, providing an overview of syntax, variables, data types and... Read More »Java Basics, Part 2
This second Study Guide describes the basics of Java, providing an overview of operators, modifiers and control Structures. Read More »Network Fundamentals Study Guide
Networking fundamentals teaches the building blocks of modern network design. Learn different types of networks, concepts, architecture and... Read More »