What is a computer?

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This is a supplemental lesson in the course Introduction to Computers, which is a part of The School of Computer Science

Educational level: this is a secondary education resource.
Type classification: this is a lesson resource.
Completion status: this resource has reached a high level of completion.

Objective[edit | edit source]

Familiarize the student with the basics of computers. This should give the student a stepping stone to use when learning more specific details about computer hardware.

What is a Computer?[edit | edit source]

A computer is an electronic device that takes input or output such as numbers, text, sound, image, animations, video, etc., processes it, and converts it into meaningful information that could be understood, presenting the changed input (processed input) as output. All numbers, text, sound, images, animations, and video used as input are called data, and all numbers, text, sound, images, animations, and video returned as output are called information.

A computer is composed of five crucial parts:

  • A control unit to direct tasks to be performed
  • An output computer

Keyboard (not all are the same)[edit | edit source]

  • A computer will process data differently based on the kind of data being handled, using a set of instructions called a program or routine.
  • A keyboard is also used to give commands to the operating system of a computer, such as Windows' Control-Alt-Delete combination, which brings up the system security options screen. A command-line interface is a type of user interface navigated entirely using a keyboard, or some other similar device that does the job of one.

Computer Case[edit | edit source]

The CPU, motherboard, memory, and any internal components are typically put into a computer case/housing.

  • The control unit, ALU, and registers are collectively known as a central processing unit (CPU). Early CPUs were composed of many separate components but since the mid-1970s CPUs have typically been constructed on a single integrated circuit called a microprocessor.

Monitor[edit | edit source]

• A computer monitor is the most commonly used graphical output device, for the information processed by the CPU.

Computer System[edit | edit source]


The minimum requirements for a functional computer system include; a keyboard, a case/ housing containing a CPU and memory (although the case itself isn't strictly necessary), and a monitor. The data is usually entered via the keyboard and the information is usually presented through a screen; however, information can also be presented through speakers, braille displays, or any other output devices.

The way components inside a computer fit together helps describe how the computer works. Data comes in through an Input Device, and is sent to the CPU by Memory. The CPU processes the data, based on the input data and the program which is installed in the computer memory. When the CPU has finished processing the data, it is presented through the output device as information. The information can be stored in the computer memory or presented through an Output Device.

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Supplemental Course Navigation

<< Course Page - Introduction to Computers Next - Hardware >>