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What is a computer?

A Computer is an electronic device that can receive a set of instructions, or program, and then carry out this program by performing calculations on numerical data or by compiling and correlating other forms of information.

Thesis Statement:- The modern world of high technology could not have come about except for the development of the computer. Different types and sizes of computers find uses throughout society in the storage and handling of data, from secret governmental files to banking transactions to private household accounts. Computers have opened up a new era in manufacturing through the techniques of automation, and they have enhanced modern communication systems. They are essential tools in almost every field of research and applied technology, from constructing models of the universe to producing tomorrow's weather reports, and their use has in itself opened up new areas of conjecture. Database services and computer networks make available a great variety of information sources. The same advanced techniques also make possible invasions of privacy and of restricted information sources, but computer crime has become one of the many risks that society must face if it would enjoy the benefits of modern technology.

Imagine a world without computers. That would mean no proper means of communicating, no Internet, no video games. Life would be extremely difficult. Adults would have to store all their office work paper and therefore take up an entire room. Teenagers would have to submit course-works and projects hand-written. All graphs and diagrams would have to be drawn neatly and carefully. Youngsters would never have heard of 'video-games' and will have to spend their free time either reading or playing outside with friends. But thanks to British mathematicians, Augusta Ada Byron and Charles Babbage, our lives are made a lot easier.

Later, on my investigation about the growth of computers over the decades, I will be talking about types of computers, how and when computers were first being developed, the progress it made, computers at present and plans for the future. In types of computers, I will be talking about analogue and digital computers and how they function. In the development of computers, I will be mentioning about the very first electronic calculator and computer. Under progress made, I will only be mentioning about circuits. For computers of the present, I will be talking about networking, telecommunications and games. And finally, as for planning for the future, I will mention about new and recent ideas, research and development of new computers heard and talked about in newspapers and on television.


There are two main types of computers which are in use today, analog and digital computers, although the term computer is often used to mean only the digital type. Analog computers exploit the mathematical similarity between physical interrelationships in certain problems, and employ electronic or hydraulic circuits to simulate the physical problem. Digital computers solve problems by performing sums and by dealing with each number digit by digit.

Hybrid computers are those which contain elements of both analog and digital computers. They are usually used for problems in which large numbers of complex equations, known as time integrals, are to be computed. Data in analog form can also be fed into a digital computer by means of an analog- to-digital converter, and the same is true of the reverse situation.

a) What are analog computers and how do they work?

The analog computer is an electronic or hydraulic device that is designed to handle input in terms of, for example, voltage levels or hydraulic pressures, rather than numerical data. The simplest analog calculating device is the slide rule, which employs lengths of specially calibrated scales to facilitate multiplication, division, and other functions. In a typical electronic analog computer, the inputs are converted into voltages that may be added or multiplied using specially designed circuit elements. The answers are continuously generated for display or for conversion to another desired form.

b) What are digital computers and how do they work?

Everything that a digital computer does is based on one operation: the ability to determine if a switch, or "gate," is open or closed. That is, the computer can recognise only two states in any of its microscopic circuits: on or off, high voltage or low voltage, or-in the case of numbers-0 or 1. The speed at which the computer performs this simple act, however, is what makes it a marvel of modern technology. Computer speeds are measured in megahertz, or millions of cycles per second. A computer with a "clock speed" of 10 MHz-a fairly representative speed for a microcomputer-is capable of executing 10 million discrete operations each second. Business microcomputers can perform 15 to 40 million operations per second, and supercomputers used in research and defence applications attain speeds of billions of cycles per second.

Digital computer speed and calculating power are further enhanced by the amount of data handled during each cycle. If a computer checks only one switch at a time, that switch can represent only two commands or numbers; thus ON would symbolise one operation or number, and OFF would symbolise another. By checking groups of switches linked as a unit, however, the computer increases the number of operations it can recognise at each cycle. For example, a computer that checks two switches at one time can represent four numbers (0 to 3) or can execute one of four instructions at each cycle, one for each of the following switch patterns: OFF-OFF (0); OFF-ON (1); ON-OFF (2); or ON-ON (3).


a) The Mother of all Calculators

The first adding machine, a precursor of the digital computer, was devised in 1642 by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal. This device employed a series of ten-toothed wheels, each tooth representing a digit from 0 to 9. The wheels were connected so that numbers could be added to each other by advancing the wheels by a correct number of teeth. In the 1670s the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz improved on this machine by devising one that could also multiply.

The French inventor Joseph Marie Jacquard , in designing an automatic loom, used thin, perforated wooden boards to control the weaving of complicated designs. During the 1880s the American statistician Herman Hollerith conceived the idea of using perforated cards, similar to Jacquard's boards, for processing data. Employing a system that passed punched cards over electrical contacts, he was able to compile statistical information for the 1890 U.S. census.

b) The Mother of all


Also in the 19th century, the British mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage worked out the principles of the modern digital computer. He conceived a number of machines, such as the Difference Engine, that were designed to handle complicated mathematical problems. Many historians consider Babbage and his associate, the British mathematician Augusta Ada Byron (Lady Lovelace, 1815...

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