Being a modern-day kid you must have used, seen, or read about computers. This is because they are an integral part of our everyday existence. Be it school, banks, shops, railway stations, hospital or your own home, computers are present everywhere, making our work easier and faster for us. As they are such integral parts of our lives, we must know what they are and how they function. Let us start with defining the term computer formally.
The literal meaning of computer is a device that can calculate. However, modern computers can do a lot more than calculate. Computer is an electronic device that receives input, stores or processes the input as per user instructions and provides output in desired format.
Computer input is called data and the output obtained after processing it, based on user’s instructions is called information. Raw facts and figures which can be processed using arithmetic and logical operations to obtain information are called data.
The processes that can be applied to data are of two types −
- Arithmetic operations − Examples include calculations like addition, subtraction, differentials, square root, etc.
- Logical operations − Examples include comparison operations like greater than, less than, equal to, opposite, etc.
The corresponding figure for an actual computer looks something like this −
The basic parts of a computer are as follows −
- Input Unit − Devices like keyboard and mouse that are used to input data and instructions to the computer are called input unit.
- Output Unit − Devices like printer and visual display unit that are used to provide information to the user in desired format are called output unit.
- Control Unit − As the name suggests, this unit controls all the functions of the computer. All devices or parts of computer interact through the control unit.
- Arithmetic Logic Unit − This is the brain of the computer where all arithmetic operations and logical operations take place.
- Memory − All input data, instructions and data interim to the processes are stored in the memory. Memory is of two types – primary memory and secondary memory. Primary memory resides within the CPU whereas secondary memory is external to it.
Control unit, arithmetic logic unit and memory are together called the central processing unit or CPU. Computer devices like keyboard, mouse, printer, etc. that we can see and touch are the hardware components of a computer. The set of instructions or programs that make the computer function using these hardware parts are called software. We cannot see or touch software. Both hardware and software are necessary for working of a computer.