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What are computers anyway?

In today's digital age, computers play a crucial role in our daily lives. But what exactly is a computer? Simply put, a computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. This means that computers can perform a wide range of tasks, from simple calculations to complex operations, by following a set of instructions known as programs.

A computer system, on the other hand, refers to a complete set of computer hardware and software that is needed for full operation. This includes the computer itself, the operating system, and any peripheral equipment such as a keyboard, mouse, or monitor. A computer network or cluster is a group of computers that are linked and function together.

Computers are also widely used in a variety of industries and consumer products. They are used as control systems in everything from microwave ovens and remote controls to industrial robots and computer-aided design. Personal computers and mobile devices such as smartphones are also examples of general-purpose devices that rely on computers. The Internet, which connects billions of people and computers worldwide, is also powered by computers.

image: Smartphone, wikipedia

The history of computers can be traced back to ancient times, when simple manual instruments like the abacus were used for calculations. However, it wasn't until the Industrial Revolution that mechanical devices were built to automate tedious tasks. The first digital electronic calculating machines were developed during World War II and the first semiconductor transistors were introduced in the late 1940s. This led to the development of the microprocessor and the microcomputer revolution in the 1970s, which sparked a rapid increase in the speed, power, and versatility of computers.

image: wikipedia

A modern computer typically includes at least one processing element, such as a central processing unit (CPU) in the form of a microprocessor, and computer memory, typically in the form of semiconductor memory chips. The processing element performs arithmetic and logical operations and a sequencing and control unit can change the order of operations based on stored information. Peripheral devices, such as input and output devices, allow information to be retrieved from external sources and the results of operations to be saved and retrieved.

Computers have come a long way since their early days as simple calculation machines. Today, they play a vital role in our daily lives and continue to evolve and improve at a rapid pace.

Image: Dall-E AI generated image of a super computer

source adapted from: wikipedia and ChatGTP ChatGPT Jan 9 Version.