Computer Fundamentals | History and Developments of Computers

Computer Fundamentals

In this article, you will learn the Computer fundamentals, history, and developments of a computer, different types of computer, its components, computer software, networking, and computer applications in detail.

The fundamentals of computers will provide an insight into its evolution, types, components of hardware, software, Central Processing Unit (CPU), Networking and Internet, etc.

A computer is designed to work with data and information. It is an electronic device that takes instructions as input from the user, processes it internally, and gives the result as output. The computer is a derivative of Latin word compute, meaning to calculate.

Things to Know:- Shortcut Keys of Computer Keyboard

History and developments of a computer

Early humans used sticks, bones, stones as their counting devices. The technology advancement led to the development of new computing devices, and Abacus is the first one developed around 4000 years ago.

Charles Babbage, who is also called the Father of computers, conceptualized the idea of the programmable computer, invented the first mechanical computer in 1837. It was termed as an Analytical Engine.

The computer technology enhancement with time has been classified as generations of computer.

There are five generations of computer as below:-

1. First-generation period (1940 – 1956): Invention of vacuum tubes.

2. Second generation period (1956 – 1963): Replacement of vacuum tubes by the introduction of transistors.

3. Third-generation period (1964 – 1971): Invention of Integrated circuits.

4. Fourth-generation period (1971 – 2010): Invention of microprocessors

5. Fifth-generation period (Today): Development in the microprocessor technology to ULSI chip and future is Artificial Intelligence.

What are the different types of computers?

The computers used at our home are different from that are used by scientists for their research. They can be classified based on purpose or size.

Types of Computer Based on their purpose

  • Analog computer – It works on the principle of analogous data, which means the results are approximate. Examples- Thermometer, Speedometer, scale machine, etc.
  • Digital computer – It works on the principle of binary mathematics, which means all calculations are represented as 0 or 1. Examples are Microcomputer, laptop, digital watch, etc.
  • Hybrid computer – A hybrid computer is a combination of analog and digital type and offers a cost-effective method to carry out complex tasks. Examples are ECG machines, weather forecasting, etc.

Types of Computer Based on their size

  • Supercomputer – It is the biggest and powerful computer to execute large and complex calculations/tasks at a fast speed as compared to the mainframe computer. They are expensive and used in weather forecasting, research laboratories, graphic animation, nuclear research, etc. 
  • Mainframe computer – It is also a large and powerful computer and can support thousands of operating systems. It is capable of executing many programs concurrently. These features make it ideal for use in banking, large business hubs, and government sectors.
  • Minicomputer – It is a midsize computer consisting of more than two processors and capable of supporting up to 200 users at a time. It is used for inventory management, accounting, and billing purposes in departments and institutes.
  • Microcomputer – It is also called a Personal computer and designed to be used by a single person. It has an inbuilt microprocessor and input/output devices to carry out small tasks. Laptops, desktop computers are examples of microcomputers. They are used to create documents, mathematical calculations, watching movies, storing data, etc.

Mobile devices that can be carried in a pocket or bag include smartphones, tablet PCs, gaming console.

What are the components of a computer?

The internal architecture design varies with computer size and capacity, but the below components remain the same.

  • Input unit – The raw data, instructions are fed into the computer by input devices.
  • Storage unit – It can store all the input, processed, and output data. It has primary and secondary storage units.
  • Central processing unit (CPU) – It is a processing unit to convert the raw data into useful information. The arithmetic logic unit (ALU) is a subunit that performs arithmetic and logical operations.
  • Control unit – It takes care of data coordination and managing all the functions of a processor.
  • Output unit – It displays the result, either visually or hard documents.
  • Hardware refers to any physical component or device connected to the computer. It includes the input and output devices, secondary storage devices, and internal components.

Computer Input Devices

Input devices enable the user to enter the data on a computer. They are classified based on their input mode as under:-

Standard input device

  • A keyboard is a widely used input device for data entry by pressing keys. QWERTY layout is the most common in modern-day computers.

Point and draw device

  • A mouse is a palm-size pointing device. It has a left and right button with a scroll wheel between them to select, open the menu bar, and move the cursor up, and down respectively. Trackball, mechanical, optical, and wireless mouse are its type.
  • A joystick is also a pointing device but has a handle to move the cursor or pointer on the screen. It is used for playing games.
  • A light pen is a lookalike of a normal pen by which we can write or draw on the computer screen.
  • The touch screen is the simplest input device used in smartphones, tablets, laptops to interact with computers by touching the screen.

Special input device

  • A microphone is used to transfer voice to the computer. Dynamic, ribbon and condenser are its type.
  • A scanner is used to convert the content of hard copy documents into digital form. Flatbed, handheld, photo scanners are some of its types.
  • Web Camera is capable of taking still photos or videos of the user in front of it, to be used over the internet. It is either inbuilt (laptops) or connected to the computer via USB.

Computer Output Devices

Output devices are hardware devices to view the data processed by computers. The output devices are as mentioned below:-

  • A monitor is a common output device that displays visual results. CRT, LCD, LED monitors are some of its types.
  • Printers reproduce the digital results in the form of hard documents. The printers are classified as Impact and Non-impact printers. Laser and Inkjet printers are the non-impact printers which are widely used at homes.
  • Speakers are used to listening to audio or watch movies.
  • Projectors are capable of projecting the digital output on big screens or flat white surface.

The system unit is the main component of the desktop computer that houses the electronic components and internal storage devices.

It is a basic box enclosure that protects these sensitive devices and components from getting damaged. The main components inside the system unit are:-

  • Motherboard – It is a large circuit board that holds CPU, RAM, Adapter cards, and many other electronic components.
  • CPU – It is a microprocessor and carries out all the operations of a computer. It comes as single, dual, and quad-core processors.
  • Memory (RAM / ROM) – It is a part that remembers everything stored on the computer. RAM is the primary storage but stores data temporarily, whereas the data stored in ROM is permanent.
  • Disk drive – Hard disk drive is used to store information, data for future use. CD-ROM / DVD / Blu-ray drive reads information on the CDs / DVDs / Blu-ray discs.
  • SMPS (Switched-mode Power supply) – It converts the AC power into DC power required by the computer.
  • Adapter cards – It is fitted on the motherboard and enhances the functions of various components of a computer. Examples are Sound card, Video card, modem, and network card.
  • Ports – The computer peripheral devices are plugged in slots or holes called ports. Some of the popular ports are Monitor, HDMI, USB, microphone, Speaker, Desktop / Laptop power, Network port.

Memory units measure the stored data in the memory of the computer and on disk space. The smallest memory unit is a Bit that can understand binary numbers, 0 or 1.

The byte is equivalent to 8 bits, and 1 byte represents digits in around 256 different arrangements.

A kilobyte, Megabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte holds 1024, bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, Gigabytes, respectively.

What is computer software?

Software refers to any set of instructions or programs required for computer operation to carry out specific tasks. Software is classified as below:-

System software manages and controls the functioning of the computer itself, whereas application software is used to carry out a specific job of end-user.

Examples of system software are Operating system (Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac), device drivers, utilities whereas Word processors, spreadsheets, graphic and animation software are some examples of application software.

Must Read:- Difference between System software and Application software

Number system in a computer

A computer can understand only numbers. Therefore, whatever number, character, or symbol we type, it gets converted into numbers for the computer to understand it.

The four types of the numbering system used in computers are:-

  • Binary number system
  • Octal number system
  • Decimal number system
  • Hexadecimal number system

What is computer networking & the internet all about?

Computer Networking refers to a setup of many computers connected in a network for sharing / exchanging data, commands, resources, and information.

Internet refers to a setup of billions of computers interconnected with each other globally using the World Wide Web and Standard Internet protocol (TCP / IP).

It is the fastest mode of sharing and exchanging information or data between computers spread over the world.

We can search for any information, buy/sell products online, watch movies, chat or perform video calls, online shopping, and a lot of other activities over the internet.

Also Read:- What is URL?

What are the different computer applications today?

Computers are versatile, carryout multiple calculations at a very high speed, give reliable accurate results, which have made them form an integral part of the system across sectors.

In recent years, it has become an increasingly vital task for many small business owners to identify computer applications for different aspects of a company’s business.

Computers are part of today’s business environment, partially because they can be an effective tool in so many areas of everyday operations.

Entrepreneurs and other small enterprise owners use today’s fast-changing computer technology in many different fields of industry.

Computer applications are widely used in Business, Marketing, Education institutions, Banks, Engineering, Defence, Entertainment, communications, healthcare, government, weather forecast, and many more.