What is a computer?
Does it sound like a stupid question? But it’s not as stupid as you may think. Think of it. The literary meaning of the term computer is ‘any device that does a computation. But the computer as we see it today is a different thing. It has a system unit, a monitor, input devices like keyboard, mouse etc. Now, what about a calculator, can it be called a computer? The answer is YES. Any device that performs some kind of calculation or computation can be termed as a computer.
Fixed function computer
Anything that does a computation can be termed a computer. So, almost all kind of electronic devices that we see today are kind of computers. Take the case of a calculator. It can perform several arithmetic operations. The function of a calculator is fixed. It can work based on the program stored in it. It is permanent. The user can’t replace the program with another one and make the calculator perform a different function. So, the calculator is a fixed function computer.
Stored program computer (Programmable computer)
Stored program computer is nothing but a device that works according to the program stored in it. The user can store a different one and make it work accordingly. Now, the device we call computer falls under this category. Not only the computer but other devices like mobile phones, tablets also fall under the category of stored program computer.
You may have already got the idea of what is programming. It’s very simple. Programming is simply the act of writing programs to make a programmable computer to do different things. The computer will act according to the instructions in the program. The instruction should be clear and unambiguous. The computer can’t think on its own. It simply does what it is told.
Consider the process of making tea. We, humans, are intelligent. When we make tea, we use our intelligence to find the right amount of milk, sugar etc. The computer has no intelligence. So to get a computer to make tea, we should give clear instructions, like how much sugar, how much milk, how long it should be boiled, at what temperature etc. If we fail to give any one step, the tea will not be made. So, programming is like this. It’s a step by step recipe to get the computer to do something. All the software we see today, whether it’s a word processor, a music player, or a complex 3D modeling software, are all recipes. There may be millions of lines of instructions. But they are all different instructions for getting the computer to do something. Our role as a programmer is to write these recipes.
Did you like this article about computers. If you think there’s something to be added, or any point needs more clarification, just drop a comment.
Hi, I’m Shiju P John. A Computer Science Engineering student. I run this site as my hobby and passion.