Most people are aware that a computer is a machine that can perform arithmetic operations, but it is much more than just an arithmetic number crunching device. It is also a machine that can choose copy, move compare and perform various non-arithmetic operations on many alphabetic, numeric and other symbols that humans use to represent things. The computer manipulates these symbols in the desired way through a sequence of instructions, called a program. A program is a detailed set of human instructions that directs the computer to function in a specific way to produce a desired result. The programs form the software part of the computer. Electrical or electromechanical components are known as hardware.
Speed and accuracy capabilities: A computer works one step at a time. It can add, subtract, compare digits and letters, move and copy numbers and letters. There’s nothing profound in these operations. What is significant is the computer speed. This speed is measured in milliseconds, microseconds, nanoseconds and Pico seconds (Recent study says computer speed is being doubled every six months). The speed required for computers to execute a basic operation like addition varies from a few microseconds for the smallest machines to 80 nano seconds or less for the larger ones. Thus, the slowest computers can perform hundreds of thousands of additions in a second while the largest systems can compute several million additions in the same period.
Data manipulating capability: The first computers were built to manipulate numbers in order to solve arithmetic problems. Along with numbers, we also use alphabets and different symbols in our daily life. Luckily, early computer experts made the important discovery that a machine that can accept, store and process numbers can also be used to manipulate non-numeric symbols. Manipulating these familiar symbols is possible if an identifying code number is assigned to the symbol to be stored and processed. Thus, the letter A can be represented by a code, so can the letter B, the addition symbol and so on. Of course, one must give the computer instructions for it to manipulate the coded and stored symbols in a desired way.
Data - versus – information: The word “data” is the plural of datum, which means fact. Data then, are facts or raw material of information. Data are indicated by symbols. Data arranged in ordered or useful form is called information. That is, information is relevant knowledge produced as output after data processing operations and acquired by people to enhance understanding and to achieve specific goals. The following are the stages in processing of raw data to provide information:
1. Data Collection,
2. Raw data input,
3. Data Processing,
5. End user judgment and measures.
Data Processing activities: Data processing consists of gathering the raw data input, evaluating and bringing order to it and placing it in proper perspective so that useful information is produced. All data processing, whether done by hand or computer system consists or three basic activities: capturing the input data, manipulating the data and managing the output results.
More Computer Capabilities
In the 21st century, now in 2017, computers can do more than ever imagined. With the advent of artificial intelligence has increased, computers are asked to do more and more. Computers can do much more than just data, spreadsheets and databases.
Computers today are amazing as the size of memory as increased dramatically. Today, in 2017 a simple hand held calculator has more computing power than all of the computers that were used to launch the Apollo missions to the moon in 1969.