In this article, you will learn about digital computers, types of digital computers, advantages & disadvantages of digital computers, features, classification, use, and evolution.
What is a Digital Computer?
Digital Computer is a machine or a device that helps to process any kind of information.
These are the devices through which we provide some input and get the output within a fraction of a second.
The operations that are conducted internally in the device happen using the binary number system since the computer understands only digits ie 0’s and 1’s.
All the content that is written in English will be converted to binary language and thus computers and humans communicate with each other.
There are mainly three parts to a digital computer and it consists –
- Input: The user normally provides the data to the device which is known as input.
- Processing: The input that is provided by the user is processed internally using some defined sequence.
- Output: Once the processing is completed, based on the input, the output is displayed to the user.
Real-Life Examples of Digital Computer
Some of the basic real-life examples of digital devices are as follows:-
- Personal computers/ Laptops/Notebooks
- Digital Weighing Machine
- Check-in Kishok at Airport
- Automated Teller Machine – ATM
First Electronic Digital Computer
John Vincent Atanasoff created the first electronic digital computer ABC (Atanasoff-Berry Computer) with the help of his student Clifford E. Berry during the 1940s.
In 1946, two University of Pennsylvania researchers finished work on the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), which received the first patent for a digital electronic computing device.
Types of Digital Computers
Digital computers are a device that needs to be programmed in order to receive the desired output.
It uses electronic technology to generate, store and process different types of data.
Based on the size and type of the device, these digital computers are classified into four categories.
- Mainframe computer
A Microcomputer is not really expensive and it comes with a microprocessor as its Central processing unit and input/output devices.
These computers are generally called personal computers and a few examples are IBM pc, Apple, and Dell.
Minicomputers are known as mid-range computers that contain one or more processors.
They support multiprocessing which means these multiple processors share the same computer memory and other required peripheral devices to perform the given task.
Minicomputers are generally used for processing transactions, file handling, and managing database.
Mainframe computers are generally large-size computers mainly used for storing large amounts of data and processing. It is known for its high level of reliability.
These machines are used by an organization that requires crucial applications such as census, and customer statistics for large calculations which require a high volume of data processing.
Supercomputers are very expensive and the world’s fastest computers are available.
These computers have thousands of processors that perform trillions of calculations per second and hence the fastest known ever.
Supercomputers are used extensively in enterprises and organizations that require massive calculations.
Classification of Computers
Computers can be categorized into Analog, Digital, and Hybrid Computers. Each category is used for its own purpose and has its own significance.
Analog computers are mainly based on voltages and currents with continuous electrical signals and display the output continuously.
These computers store the data and perform calculations quite differently than digital computers which make use of symbolic representation.
These are generally slower in speed compared to digital computers. One example is a thermometer.
Digital computers are computers that process data in binary forms ie.0’s and 1’s.
The main benefit of digital computers is that they are quick and re-programmable.
Some examples are laptops, smartphones, and calculators.
Hybrid computers are special-purpose computer that has a combination of both Analog and digital computers.
They are digital computer that accepts Analog signals and converts them to digital form.
These are generally used for scientific applications, airplanes, and hospitals.
Some examples include electrocardiogram machines, ultrasound machines, and monitoring machines.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Digital Computer
Advantages of digital computers
The main advantage of Digital computers is as follows:-
- that they can store loads of data and it is very accurate.
- they are comparatively less expensive.
- Easy to use
- digital computers are more reliable, flexible, and compatible.
- the upgradation of new features in digital devices is very easy.
The disadvantage of digital computers
- Digital computers consume more energy and produce more heat than analog computers.
- the elements of a digital computer are very fragile. A single unit can bring down a whole unit.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Analog Computers
Analog computer is quick and hence fastest. Digital computers are comparatively slower than Analog and this is the main disadvantage.
Analog computers store less data and hence digital computers are great for memory is considered.
Characteristics of Digital Computer
- Good Memory – Digital computers can store a large number of data and can retrieve data in a fraction of a second. The data can be stored for any duration and retrieved anytime.
- Very Flexible – These computers can perform multi-tasking without any human interference and hence they are very flexible and versatile.
- Automatic – These devices once started are automatic. They do not need any intervention until required by the task specifically.
- Good Speed – Digital computers are high in speed and carry out all the operations at a very fast speed.
- Accurate – These devices help in storing all the information which helps in retrieving accurate data at any point in a given time.
Components of Digital Computer
A digital computer has the following basic components –
These input devices take the input from the user and convert it to binary language which is understandable by the computer making it easy to understand.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
CPU is the Central Processing Unit which is known as the brain of the computer as it controls the entire computer system.
Once the user provides input through the input device such as a keyboard or mouse, the same is processed in the Central processing unit.
This first get the instructions from memory and then decides what needs to be done.
Hence CPU performs all the computation parts and sends them to the output device.
CPU has different components within, which have different responsibilities.
- Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU) – The main function of ALU is that it performs all the arithmetic and mathematical calculations which include addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
- Control Unit – The task of the Control unit is that it mainly allows the data to move from and to the CPU and manages the operations performed by ALU. All the instructions that are sent are picked, decoded, and analyzed. It then sends the instruction to input/output devices accordingly.
- Memory – This part is mainly used to store the data and is named “Internal memory”. The internal memory has been divided into multiple locations which store the instructions. Each of these locations has a unique address and has the same size. With this unique address, the computer will read the data stored in the memory without having to search the entire memory location. Whenever a program is run, the data will be stored in the internal memory and it would remain till the end of the execution. This internal memory is named RAM ie. Random Access Memory.
Output Devices are the devices that are attached to the computer which convert the binary data from the computer to language which humans understand.
Some of the common output devices are Monitors, plotters, and printers.
Uses of Digital Computers
As digital computers are mainly used to store data it is almost used everywhere to store photos, music, documents, and files.
Students use it for mathematical calculations and computations. It is used by spacecraft, health domains, schools, colleges, large or small organizations, and factories.
Digital computers are used worldwide and it has been very powerful devices.
Evolution of Digital computer
The evolution of the digital computer is explained in the succeeding paragraphs for you.
First Generation of Computers
In the early years of the computing era, the first generation of computers evolved in 1940 – 1956 which was named Vaccum Tubes.
Using this system, it would take weeks to execute the problem and get the results.
Earlier then the input used to be punch cards and the output would be printouts.
An example of a first-generation computer is the ENIAC computer.
Second Generation Computers
The second generation of computers were transistors that replaced the vacuum tubes in the year 1956 -1963.
Transistors were faster, cheaper, more efficient, and smaller compared to an earlier generation.
The output remained the same as the first generation. (punch cards and printouts).
Third Generation of Computers
The third generation of computers were Integrated circuits that replaced Transistors in the year 1964-1971.
Integrated circuits were miniature transistors and they were placed above the silicon chips and named semiconductors.
They proved to be very efficient compared to previous versions in terms of speed and size. Here input and output changed to keyboards and monitors.
Fourth Generation of Computers
The fourth generation of computers was Microprocessors which replaces Integrated circuits in the year 1971- the present.
Thousands of integrated circuits started to be built on a single silicon chip and this brought the fourth generation of the computer to life.
These were small, efficient, smart computers that became more powerful.
It could be connected to different input and output devices. Eventually, they were able to connect to networks which led to internet development.
Fifth Generation of Computers
The fifth generation of computers is Artificial Intelligence (AI).
These are computing devices based on artificial intelligence which are still getting developed with a lot of progress day by day.
These include applications such as voice recognition and parallel processing.
The idea of fifth-generation computing is to create new devices that understand human language input and are capable of learning and giving output independently.
Difference between Digital Systems and Digital Computer
Digital systems store, process, and communicate information in digital form. They are used for the control of processes, in various communication systems, and are also required for consumer products.
However, the digital computer is an example of a digital system.
Digital computers are very vastly used in the current era and it is helpful in day-to-day activities.
In addition to scientific and engineering use, it is also used in automated industrial processes, and transportation systems and to analyze other statistical data.
The Digital computer can work endlessly, efficiently, and accurately without getting tired soon.