What is Computers: Definition and 244 Discussions

A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operations known as programs. These programs enable computers to perform a wide range of tasks. A computer system is a "complete" computer that includes the hardware, operating system (main software), and peripheral equipment needed and used for "full" operation. This term may also refer to a group of computers that are linked and function together, such as a computer network or computer cluster.
A broad range of industrial and consumer products use computers as control systems. Simple special-purpose devices like microwave ovens and remote controls are included, as are factory devices like industrial robots and computer-aided design, as well as general-purpose devices like personal computers and mobile devices like smartphones. Computers power the Internet, which links hundreds of millions of other computers and users.
Early computers were meant to be used only for calculations. Simple manual instruments like the abacus have aided people in doing calculations since ancient times. Early in the Industrial Revolution, some mechanical devices were built to automate long tedious tasks, such as guiding patterns for looms. More sophisticated electrical machines did specialized analog calculations in the early 20th century. The first digital electronic calculating machines were developed during World War II. The first semiconductor transistors in the late 1940s were followed by the silicon-based MOSFET (MOS transistor) and monolithic integrated circuit (IC) chip technologies in the late 1950s, leading to the microprocessor and the microcomputer revolution in the 1970s. The speed, power and versatility of computers have been increasing dramatically ever since then, with transistor counts increasing at a rapid pace (as predicted by Moore's law), leading to the Digital Revolution during the late 20th to early 21st centuries.
Conventionally, a modern computer consists of at least one processing element, typically a central processing unit (CPU) in the form of a microprocessor, along with some type of computer memory, typically semiconductor memory chips. The processing element carries out arithmetic and logical operations, and a sequencing and control unit can change the order of operations in response to stored information. Peripheral devices include input devices (keyboards, mice, joystick, etc.), output devices (monitor screens, printers, etc.), and input/output devices that perform both functions (e.g., the 2000s-era touchscreen). Peripheral devices allow information to be retrieved from an external source and they enable the result of operations to be saved and retrieved.

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  1. L

    B Quantum Computers and their special properties?

    I believe at the current time quantum computers can't get as much done as fast as normal computers, but do quantum computers have access to information by its own nature that allows it to run special calculations that normal computers can't? In particular physics or biology simulations using...
  2. PainterGuy

    Is Alan Turing given too much credit when it comes to computers?

    Hi, Is Alan Turing given too much credit when it comes to computers? He is presented as someone who played a pivotal role with the realization of a computer. What Turing did as an answer to Hilbert's problem was a great achievement from mathematical point of view. Alan Turing was mathematician...
  3. kyphysics

    How Do Computers Work? (At Most Basic Level)

    It's late/early...I'm procrastinating on a project... Thought I'd ask a "dumb" question to satisfy my curiosity. I know computers have hardware (physical machine) and software (from the operating system to other programs/apps that can be downloaded onto the hardware to perform certain...
  4. .Scott

    Quantum Computers getting closer

    This New Atlas article on Quantum Brilliance describes the development status of a new quantum data processor that can operate at room temperature. They are predicting a useful commercial device in about 5 years. The device is based on nuclear spin in a diamond substrate. The device is very...
  5. Stal

    Computational Literature suggestions please (Topological Quantum Computers)

    Hi, I will be starting my research in topological QC (based on non abelian anyons following the work of A. Yu. Kitaev). To begin understanding this theory, I need to develop a background in the braiding group used to describe anyons, fault tolerance in quantum computers and probably condensed...
  6. J

    What biological systems can be simulated with exaflops computers?

    Summary:: Fugaku's supercomputer is 442 PetaFlops fast, what can we simulate with it? So the most powerful supercomputer in these days is 0.4 exaflops fast. I assume we can simulate precisely the interaction between simple atoms, small molecules but... What is the limit? Could we simulate a...
  7. anorlunda

    Getting Started With Computers and Programming

    I want to share a good Youtube Channel that I recently found. "Ben Eater" https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCS0N5baNlQWJCUrhCEo8WlA [I have no personal or financial interest in Ben Eater's stuff.] Mr. Eater is a talented teacher. His choice of topics and his execution of the demos are all...
  8. A

    A Are all quantum computers feedforward networks?

    Hi! I am trying to understand how advanced quantum computers have in fact become as well as how advanced they can in principle become. To probe these issues, I am asking the group whether or not quantum computers are restricted to feedforward processing, both currently and in principle? Here is...
  9. J

    I Many-worlds implies computers are not conscious?

    Consider the following thought-experiment in the many-worlds interpretation. Suppose that I have a reversible conscious observer AI and a particle with +1/2 spin in the z direction. Next the observer measures the spin in the x-direction and therefore spits into a version that measures +1/2 and...
  10. norobinhood

    Is it ever possible we could do better than binary for computers

    hi there I wish to discuss possible ways we could one day come up with a programming code that is even better than binary? i would like to discuss ideas openly? anyone got ideas? i have some if anyone wishes to discuss possible ways? never / no / yes
  11. iVenky

    I What would the pdf look like for 'N' chess computers with the same rating

    If we have 'N' advanced computers (where N-> infinity) each with exactly the same rating to begin with and make them play with each other for an infinite number of games, what would the shape of the probability density function of the ratings eventually look like?
  12. iVenky

    I Are quantum computers required to be cold to reduce Brownian motion?

    I understand that based on what I have read online quantum computers are required to be close to absolute zero because it introduces less error. Is it because brownian motion due to thermal agitation of molecules reduces with temperature?
  13. L

    A Quantum computers and Annular Josephson junctions

    Are annular Josephson junctions qubits in some quantum computer right now? https://www.nature.com/articles/425133aI found this article from 2003. What is the progress right now? Also are vortices and fluxons same thing?
  14. J

    Quantum Journal on hardware used to build quantum computers?

    Hi folks, This time is not a book, I would like to know if exists a journal explaining how a qubit is actually built, I mean the hardware not the theory. Indeed I am interested in any hardware related with these technologies. I know this field is still in an early stage and they are still...
  15. ngrunenberg

    B How do quantum computers find a solution?

    Apologies in advance if this is a stupid question, I'm not the brightest. I recently listened to Scott Aaronson's conversation with Lex Fridman, and an interview he did for Scientific American, regarding quantum computing (QC from now on) and have a question regarding how a QC finds a solution...
  16. B

    A question regarding Traditional MPM and computers

    Hey, I'm a video game director, and to put it simply I would like to know what you think the computer processing power required for a single a single pixel, a loaf of bread, or an entire human body would be to follow the laws of MPM physics, which you can google. They have examples, but no info...
  17. jedishrfu

    New Book from OReilly: Programming Quantum Computers

    OReilly published a new book, Programming Quantum Computers. From my brief scan of it, the book looks pretty comprehensive. They use circle notation for the Qubit states and have a simulator (QCengine) to go along with the examples on github. The programming language for their algorithm...
  18. russ_watters

    The Triviality of Computers - How Many do You Own?

    This is an offshoot of the Boeing MCAS thread where we were discussing flight control computer sophistication. To ironically quote Apollo 13; today we have "computers that can fit into a single room and hold millions* of pieces of information..." That was about 1968. But *today* we consider...
  19. O

    I Efficiency of computers vs. brains

    Hi, I’m an undergraduate student interested in cognitive processes. I’m about to ask a very interdisciplinary question, and so hopefully I can find a physicists that can take on the challenge. What is the fundamental reason behind why modern electronic computers (transistor computers) are...
  20. J

    What is the difference between quantum computers and quantum accelerators?

    Hello. Could you please explain to me what the difference is between quantum computers and quantum accelerators?
  21. .Scott

    Data Processing before Computers

    Part of the discussion on flow charts drifted towards the use of that corner cut on the old IBM cards - enough so, that I have created this new thread. @sysprog provided this information: The conversation diverged at about this post: I noted that the card readers - including such machines...
  22. H

    B Taking Quantum Computers into Space

    Can the low temperatures in Space be employed to cool a Quantum computer installed on an operational Space vessel doing away with the need of a super fridge or whatever they use here on Earth? Thank you.
  23. BillTre

    Biological Hacking of Computers

    I didn't know whether to put this in Biology and Medical or in Programing and Computer Science so I am putting it in General Discussion. This article from Wired describes U. of Washington group that has produced a piece of DNA that when sequenced in a particular sequencing machine can produce a...
  24. Charles Link

    The phone company has computers doing its customer service

    Today I needed to call the phone company AT&T regarding my telephone account. It was really rather irritating that all I could get was a computer to talk to, and when I asked in a rather irritated tone, "could I please speak to a live person", it actually raised its voice and told me I would...
  25. C

    Chemical Computers: Designing Glucose-Based Computers

    Is it possible to use simple glucose to design a chemical computer, and therefore reflect the architecture and chemicals of the human brain?
  26. grandpa2390

    How exactly do computers execute code?

    one thing that has always miffed me is how is it that the hardware carries out the coded instruction. the code is 1's and 0's, and if I have understood anything. 1's and 0's are on and off. but how is the computer flipping the circuits on and off? something must tell it to do that. but then what...
  27. matqkks

    I How do computers evaluate the GCD of two integers?

    Do they use the Euclidean Algorithm?
  28. R

    Computers for understanding physics

    Is it possible that people would be able to know about each natural phenomenon with the help of computers. I don't think so because how one will know about the quantum mechanics or high energy physics! So, I mean that only humans can only do this, right? Or, is going to be possible in the...
  29. T

    How do computers keep time without power?

    I know the CMOS battery keeps the time and BIOS settings , but what is powered by the batter to keep time? A crystal oscillator? And why is it so crucial to keep time on a regular desktop computer?
  30. Avatrin

    How Much of Engineering Involves Hands-On Work?

    Hi I get the impression that most engineering is done with computer; CAD, numerical simulations etc. After all this is done, actually making something starts, and even a lot of that is now done with 3D printers. How much of engineering is making something with your hands? I reckon this varies...
  31. ISamson

    Analog Computers: Digital vs. Theoretical Possibilities

    There are two types of 'reading'. Digital and analog. There are digital computers, which function with 'on' and 'off' data. But can it possible to construct an analog computer? Can it be theoretically possible?
  32. N

    Python Need an automatic way to move files between computers

    I have a system of 3 PCs all connected to the same router, I need some way to automatically move files from two PCs to the third, how do I even begin to approach this?
  33. ISamson

    How do computers understand bits?

    Hello. How do computers and electronics understand bit signals and information? how do they process it? I know that a bit consists of ons and offs, but how does the computer understand this and what to do with it?? Is there something I don't understand?:smile: Thank you.
  34. pairofstrings

    Conventional Computers vs Artificially Intelligent Computers

    Hello. A conventional computer has an Operating System that has Process, Memory, Scheduler, Input/Output and Files. My question is: What the Operating System of Artificially Intelligent Computers will have?Thank you.
  35. U

    What is the Science Enthusiast's Guide to Exploring Different Fields of Study?

    Hello everyone! My real name is Ryan, but you can call me Unix (handle I've had since I was a kid). I'm 27 and have always been a huge fan of anything science. I'm formally educated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering and I work as an Engineering Technician for a small electronics...
  36. Delta Force

    Can Mineral Oil Solve the Heat Problem in High Performance Computing?

    Apparently its possible to use special mineral oil to cool a computer. However, some of the issues with the technology as described here are that the computer might run hot enough to crack an acrylic tank and humidity might enter the tank through air bubbles. Are there any ways to mitigate these...
  37. orb_yt

    How are/were computers used in jet engine design?

    Hello all, I have been tasked with writing a very short article regarding the use of computers and software in early jet engine design up to modern times. I've been having a relatively hard time finding reading material through Google. I understand that modern jet engine designers use CAD...
  38. david2

    Chess position computers cannot solve

    there was a post here on PF about a chess position created by mathematics professor Sir Roger Penrose which computers could not solve. unfortunately the thread was locked so I made a new thread. < Mentor Note -- this thread is different, so the re-post is okay > it was the following position...
  39. ShayanJ

    The mind-body problem for computers

    Last night somebody asked an interesting question. He said what's the solution to the equivalent mind-body problem for computers? How is computer software related to the computer hardware? So I explained about how computer hardware interprets voltages below and above some value as 1s and 0s and...
  40. jedishrfu

    Article on Numbers and Computers

    An interesting reference article on number formats and bases used in computing: http://www3.ntu.edu.sg/home/ehchua/programming/java/DataRepresentation.html
  41. UsableThought

    Computers & interfaces of the future - what REALLY would happen?

    Not the best thread title; improvements welcome. Let me give an example of what I mean. In the original "Star Trek," all the consoles had raised buttons, so operating the ship was kind of like using one of the old IBM Selectric typewriters, or an early PC keyboard like the one on the IBM PC/AT...
  42. Evo

    FBI chief says Russia hacked Republican Party computers

    This will be interesting to follow. http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/trailguide/la-na-trailguide-updates-russians-stole-from-some-republican-1484084353-htmlstory.html
  43. FallenApple

    Can Bio Molecules Be Used to Create Supercomputers?

    Really interesting. Using bio molecules to perform computing. http://www.computerworld.com/article/3040707/computer-hardware/biological-supercomputer-uses-the-juice-of-life.html
  44. Sirsh

    Undergraduate Thesis - FEA and Quantum Computers

    Hey everyone, I've started to do research for my undergraduate thesis topic and I would like to use FEA with an application to quantum computers. I'm thinking of something in regards to mechanical vibrations, however I'm open to consider anything given it's possible at the undergraduate level...
  45. sukalp

    About computers and being good at coding....

    i wanted to know how to become computer king of world if we have coding talent like making cool apps,software,making technical software machines like robotics. can we become computer king by challenging bill gates like what they did to world we can do in 1 day not by copying but following...
  46. obstinatus

    Exploring Options for Replacing a Failing PC on a Budget

    Hi all, I'm justifying asking the forum because I'm currently in an introductory computational physics course that requires Mathematica, and I hope to soon start other computational work. My https://www.amazon.com/dp/B009AEPQDI/?tag=pfamazon01-20's motherboard and hard drive are supposedly...
  47. N

    How do computers 'interpret' machine language?

    Eventually at some level commands will have to be converted into something a non-sentient device can respond to. My understanding is that computers are essentially a big network of switches. So how is machine code (I think basically a file containing bits of information representing a series of...
  48. micromass

    Insights Comments - Friends, strangers, 7825 and computers

    micromass submitted a new PF Insights post Friends, strangers, 7825 and computers Continue reading the Original PF Insights Post.
  49. BluberryPi

    Learning about Computers and IT

    Hello. My problem is this: I need a way to learn about stuff like RAMs, Processers, Scanner, Firewalls, you know, computer stuff, that is online. I want to learn more about computers and IT. The problem is, I don't know how to do it. Can anyone help me?
  50. E

    What are the career goals of a young computer engineering and physics student?

    Hello my name is Elijah Hampton! I am currently working on my undergraduate degree in computer engineering with a minor in physics. I plan to obtain my MSc in physics to become a particle physicist studying string theory and/or dark matter. I cannot wait to join the discussion and get to know...