What is a computer?

We explain what a computer is, the elements that compose it and its invention. In addition, how it evolved and its different parts.

  1. What is a computer?

A computer, computer or computer is  an electronic operating machine , capable of processing data at high speed and in large quantities, turning it into useful information that will then be represented in convenient terms (payable, understandable) by a human operator or user.

Computers are the most versatile and common tools of our time, and are manufactured from numerous integrated circuits , support components and extensions, which are operated under the coordination of a program called  the operating system  (OS).

Normally they receive and issue information through different mechanisms and protocols , whether they are used alone, or that they are communicated through a network .

Every computer is made up of a vast number of elements, grouped into two broad categories:  hardware  and  software .

  • Hardware . It is the physical part of the computer, that is, its electronic physical components, intended for various functions, from information management to power and basic calculations. It would be equivalent to the “body” of the device.
  • Software . This is the intangible, digital part of the computer, where all the operations of conceptual or abstract type occur, and that normally operate in a simulated virtual environment: in a representation. The software is composed of the programs, both the base (OS) and the subsequently installed applications. It would be equivalent to the “spirit” of the apparatus.

Few are the areas of life in the 21st century that do not use these machines for their organization and operation. Even technological devices as everyday as cell phones, calculators or the microwave oven consist of some type of computer.

  1. Who invented the computer?

IBM computer
The first industrial-scale computer was developed in 1953 and was the IBM650.

The invention of the computer cannot be attributed to a particular individual, not even to a set of them at a given time, but is the result of the information automation needs of the human being . For its initial development, numerous previous advances were needed in electronics, electricity, mechanics, semiconductors, logic, algebra and programming.

The first recognizable computer as such was invented in 1938 by the German engineer Konrad Kuse and operated based on perforated tapes. It was called Z1 and was the first model of the first autonomous computer, the Z3, which were basically programmable electromechanical calculators.

The first industrial-scale computer was developed in 1953 and was the IBM650 . The first personal computer sold on a large scale would appear in 1977: the Apple II, of the newly created American corporation of Steve Jobs.

  1. Computer evolution

The first predecessors of the computer were primitive and ancient tools that allowed to facilitate the work of calculation, say, grandparents of school calculators such as abacus (invented in 2700 BC).

The development of mathematics and the invention of algorithms (830 AD) or calculation rules (1620 AD) would be the conceptual basis for a long scientific evolution that would crystallize in the 19th century, with the invention of the first calculating machines , such as the “analytical machine” by Charles Babbage (1833) or the tabulation machine by Hermann Hollerith (1890).

The next step occurs in  World War II , when the mathematician Alan Turing, among others, collaborated to develop automatic systems that deciphered German military codes . At the same time, on the other side, the Z1 and its later versions were invented, which due to  war  would go largely unnoticed.

The first generation of computers appeared in the 1950s and were nothing more than bulky calculation machines, which consisted of transistors and control programs based on punch cards.

Its replacement by valve systems that same decade meant the birth of the second generation, and the third generation came from the invention in 1957 of integrated circuits, thanks to which the processor and microprocessor would be originated in 1971 .

From then on the evolution of the computer would be vertiginous, appearing in 2000 the first laptops and the first PDAs, and in 2007 the iPhone , the first smart cell phone or  martphone .

  1. Computer parts

The peripherals exchange information between the computer system and the outside.

Commonly, a computer is made up of three parts:

  • CPU . Acronym for  Central  Processing Unit  , is the “brain” of the computer, where all logical operations are carried out and microprocessors are found, as well as fixed memory and storage units, known as “disks rigid ”or“ hard drives ”. The CPU also includes an ALU (Arithmetic-Logic Unit), a UC (Control Unit) and a series of data or records. 
  • Primary memory . Known as Random  Access Memory ( RAM :  Random Access  Memory ), it is a sequence of storage cells that is temporarily occupied by the calculations necessary for the operation of the computer. This memory can be rewritten thousands of times, unlike its Read Only Memory companion ( ROM :  Read Only Memory ) that is already registered at the factory.  
  • Peripherals . This is the name of the non-central components of the computer, which allow the entry and exit of information, that is, the exchange between the computer system and the outside, including of course the operator or user.

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