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A computer is a machine that can be programmed to manipulate data. Computers can perform complex and repetitive procedures quickly, precisely and reliably and can store and retrieve large amounts of data. Most computers in use today are electronic digital computers (as opposed to analog computers).

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The physical components from which a computer is constructed are known as hardware, which can be of four types: CPU, memory, input devices (e.g. keyboards), and output devices (e.g. displays).

The CPU (central processing unit) executes software programs which tell the computer what to do. Input and output (I/O) devices allow the computer to communicate with the user and the outside world. There are many kinds of memory or storage: faster, more expensive, short term memory (e.g. RAM) to hold intermediate results, and slower, cheaper, long-term memory (e.g. cassette tapes, floppy disks, hard drives and solid-state drives) to store programs and data that are not being used immediately.

Computers today are often connected to a network (which may be part of the Internet). This allows them to be accessed from elsewhere and to exchange data with other computers.[1]

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FOLDOC logo This page uses GFDL licensed content from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing.
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