Introduction to Computers

What is a Computer?

A computer is an information processor or an electronic device that manipulates or processes raw information. It can store, process, and retrieve data. All computers have four main parts that combine and work together. These are input, memory, processing, and output.

The Four Parts of a Computer

  • Input: Two examples of input units are the mouse and keyboard; they pass information into your computer for processing. Other input types are the microphone and voice recognition software. They also convey information to the computer, which then processes it.
  • Memory/Storage: The information (documents and files) you enter on a computer are stored on the hard drive (HDD). This is a large magnetic memory that comes in different storage sizes. The amount of information a computer can hold depends on the size of its hard drive.
  • Processing: Every computer has a central processing unit (also known as the processor), a microchip placed inside the panel. When your computer starts to work, it becomes hot after a short time. This is why all computers use little fans to blow away heat from them to prevent overheating.
  • Output: Computers have LCD screens that display very detailed, high-resolution graphics. A stereo loudspeaker is another output device of a computer. It receives information and transmits it out as sounds. A permanent output type is an inkjet printer that delivers your information on blank paper.

History of Computers

If you look at computers from several definitions, the devices have been around for many years. An abacus is one of the ancient computers, a set of beads arrayed on alloy rods. To calculate numbers, users slide the beads back and forth. It was an introductory device, and people did not realize it was a computer compared to the types we have today.

Today’s concept about computers is the electronics that work around electricity. The first computer used a large amount of electricity to convert the voltage of vacuum tubes to power the device. These sets of computers were behemoths, occupying a whole building floor. They received instructions from punch cards, and only government facilities and wealthy universities could access them.

In 1960, the integrated circuit and transistor replaced the vacuum tube. These reduced power consumption, and by the standards we have today, these computers still look big. However, many institutions had more access to computing systems than ever before. In the late 1960s, the microchip was developed, which reduced the size of a computer further.

In the late 1970s, most businesses started using computers. This involves using a keyboard to type on a monitor terminal connected to a large central computer. Before not too long, the parts of computers became very small so that many people could own one in their home. This gave birth to a PC (also known as a Personal Computer) that almost everyone in the world can boast of today.

Types of Computers

There has undoubtedly been a wide range of computers offering different functions since the advent of the first one. Computer types are also in various sizes. The largest can occupy a large building and, the smallest is a microcontroller in embedded systems.

Here are the four basic types of computers.


Supercomputers are the most powerful computers in the world in terms of performance and data processing. They are specialized, heavy-duty computers used for research and exploration purposes by large organizations. For instance, NASA launches shuttles and controls them for space exploration using supercomputers.

Supercomputers are extra-large, and a single one can occupy a large air-conditioned room. Some can even stretch through an entire building and, they are costly too. These computers are used for earthquake studies, weather forecasting, space exploration, and nuclear weapons testing.

Some in-demand supercomputers include the:

  • IBM Mira in the United States
  • IBM SuperMUC in Germany
  • IBM Sequoia in the United States
  • NUDT Tianhe-1A in China
  • Fujitsu K Computer in Japan

Mainframe Computer

Mainframes are another type of computer that is extremely costly but not as powerful as supercomputers. Government organizations and many large firms run their business operations on mainframes. Due to the sizes of the mainframe computers, they can also stand in large rooms with air conditioners.

Mainframes are fast computers with the ability to process and store a large amount of data. Insurance companies, banks, and educational institutions use mainframes to store the data of their policyholders, customers, and students, respectively. The sought-after mainframe computers are Hitachi Z800 and Fujitsu ICL VME.


Minicomputers (also called Midrange Computers) are small machines without much processing and data storage ability. They are not designed for individual users but small businesses and firms for specific purposes. With the help of a minicomputer, a production department can monitor its process. Popular minicomputers include K-202, IBM Midrange computers, SDS-92, and Texas Instrument TI-990.


Microcomputers are the fastest-growing computers that are widely used in the computing world. The computers are affordable and designed for general purposes such as educational studies, business development, entertainment, etc. Industry-leading manufacturers of microcomputers are Apple, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba, and Sony. Microcomputer types include desktop computers, notebooks, gaming consoles, smartphones, tablets, netbooks, calculators, and many more.

Advantages of Computers for Individuals and Businesses

Gone are the days when a roundtable meeting, phone calls, filing cabinets, and letters are some of the ways we get things done. Without a doubt, computers have added a remarkable effect on businesses and people’s lives. Today, people don’t remember the days without the benefits of computers for educational purposes, entertainment, and business anymore.

Contemporarily, individuals and businesses have certain advantages they get from using a computer. These include the following.

Information Security

Keeping private information secure is easy today by using password-protected servers and software that eliminates viruses. Even with a password-protected computer, users’ data are safer than in the days of filing cabinets. A crucial advantage of a computer system is that it can save and backup information without the fear of losing a file.

Increased Connectivity

Computers have connected people beyond imagination in this contemporary age. The fact that an employee is not in the office is not an excuse for not being involved in crucial meetings. Some computer software and mobile apps are available for video/voice conference meetings. Computers enable students to perform their homework online and also grant employees access to work from home.

Speed and Accuracy

Performing numerous calculations, conducting transactions, research works, and communication can be accomplished very fast with a computer. With computers, everything happens quickly, taking less time than ever before. Instead of traveling around to pass information, people now use SMS, social media, and emails.

Entrepreneurial Opportunity

Computers have been helping people start a new business, which increases the number of entrepreneurs in the world. With a sales app, POS software, and the internet on your computer, you don’t need a physical office to be in business. Freelance marketplaces have also made it easier to hire freelancers and save money without hiring a full-time worker.

Computer Hardware

Hardware is the internal and external (or peripheral) physical components that a computer needs to function efficiently. It comprises everything that works together within or outside of a laptop or PC. Although hardware structure differs between laptops and PCs because they vary in size, the same core elements are in them.

While they function on both hardware and software, the hardware used will largely determine the speed of any computer system.

The Internal Hardware

All internal hardware of a computer is essential; however, let’s check out a few.

  • Motherboard: This is the crucial printed circuit board of a computer. It allocates power to other components, houses the CPU, and operates as a hub for additional hardware.
  • Central Processing Unit (CPU): The function of the CPU is to process all data from each program your computer runs.
  • Random Access Memory (RAM): The RAM is located in the memory slot of the motherboard, and it’s responsible for storing data.

Other internal hardware includes a video card, solid-state drive (SSD), hard drive (HDD), and more.

The Peripherals

The external hardware includes a monitor, mouse, keyboard, printer, speakers, image scanner, headphones, USB flash drives, and more.

Computer Software

Software is a set of programs that helps a computer to carry out definite tasks. A program is a series of instructions written to solve a specific problem. Software exists in two forms; these are system software and application software.

System Software

System software is an arrangement of programs developed to run, regulate, and extend the processing abilities of a computer. Computer manufacturers are typically responsible for the creation of system software.

Each software product has programs written in low-level languages, interacting with the hardware at the fundamental level. System software operates as the interface between the end-users and the hardware. Examples of system software include Compilers, Operating Systems, Assemblers, Interpreters, etc.

Application Software

Application software products are made to fulfill an essential need of a particular area. Software designed in the computer laboratory can be referred to as Application Software. Some application software can consist of one program, just like a notepad designed for writing text.

Likewise, it may contain a software package, a collection of programs that works together to complete a specific function. Here are some examples of application software: Microsoft Office Suite software, payroll software, income tax software, and lots more