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A computer is a general-purpose device that can be programmed to carry out a set of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Since a sequence of operations can be readily changed, the computer can solve more than one kind of problem.

Conventionally, a computer consists of at least one processing element, typically a central processing unit (CPU), and some form of memory. The processing element carries out arithmetic and logic operations, and a sequencing and control unit can change the order of operations in response to stored information. Peripheral devices allow information to be retrieved from an external source, and the result of operations saved and retrieved.

Mechanical analog computers started appearing in the first century and were later used in the medieval era for astronomical calculations. In World War II, mechanical analog computers were used for specialized military applications such as calculating torpedo aiming. During this time the first electronic digital computers were developed. Originally they were the size of a large room, consuming as much power as several hundred modern personal computers (PCs).<ref>In 1946, ENIAC required an estimated 174 kW. By comparison, a modern laptop computer may use around 30 W; nearly six thousand times less. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

Modern computers based on integrated circuits are millions to billions of times more capable than the early machines, and occupy a fraction of the space.<ref>Early computers such as Colossus and ENIAC were able to process between 5 and 100 operations per second. A modern “commoditymicroprocessor (as of 2007) can process billions of operations per second, and many of these operations are more complicated and useful than early computer operations. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Computers are small enough to fit into mobile devices, and mobile computers can be powered by small batteries. Personal computers in their various forms are icons of the Information Age and are generally considered as "computers". However, the embedded computers found in many devices from MP3 players to fighter aircraft and from electronic toys to industrial robots are the most numerous.


Computer sections
Intro  Etymology  History  Programs  Components  Networking and the Internet  Misconceptions  Future  Further topics  Hardware  Software  Languages  Types of computers  Input Devices  Output Devices  Professions and organizations  See also  Notes  References  External links  

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