What is a Computer?

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William Patrick
Asked on: Jun 16, 2011 at 4:57AM

2 Answers


A computer is any device capable of performing computations (making calculations)--it performs a computation and produces an answer. But this is a little too simple and too broad to describe most computers today. Today's computers can perform very complex calculations at extremely high speeds.

The computers most people think of, their desktop computers, their laptops or notebook computers are 'general purpose' machines. All general purpose computers have a place to store instructions (a program, stored in RAM), a computation engine to perform logical or mathematical calculations, and registers to store intermediate values created during the computation process. Increasingly, computers are being integrated with everything you can think of, from your toothbrush to your car, your audio system, your appliances, your phone, your house, your office building, virtually everything has a computers inside it these days.

Modern computers are a combination of firmware, hardware and software.

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William Patrick
Answered on: Jun 16, 2011 at 5:37AM

A computer is, at its most basic, a machine which can take instructions, and perform computations based on those instructions.

It is the ability to take instructions — often known as programs in the parlance of computers — and execute them, that distinguishes a computer from a mechanical calculator. While both are able to make computations, a calculator responds simply to immediate input. In fact, most modern calculators are actually computers, with a number of pre-installed programs to help aid in complex tasks.

Computers range from the very small to the very large. Some are capable of doing millions of calculations in a single second, while others may take long periods of time to do even the most simple calculations. But theoretically, anything one computer is capable of doing, another computer will also be able to do. Given the right instructions, and sufficient memory, a computer found in a wristwatch should be able to accomplish anything a supercomputer can — although it might take thousands of years for the wristwatch to complete the operation.

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Gokul A
Answered on: Jun 16, 2011 at 5:39AM

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