Importance and Characteristics of Computers

It would not be an exaggeration to say that we are at the beginning of another industrial Revolution. The major cause of the second Industrial Revolution is the invention of companies. Of all the electronic devices invented by man, the computer has made the greatest impact. They have made a potentially significant contribution to the society during the last three decades. They are so versatile that they have become indispensable to engineers, scientists, business executives, managers, administrators, accountants, teachers and students. They have strengthened man’s power in numerical computations and information processing and thereby have increased the effectiveness of organizations.

Engineers and scientists make use of the high speed computing capability of computers to solve their complex research and design problems. But for the computer, many of the technological achievements such as landing on the moon would have been possible.

Computers have helped automation of many industrial and business systems. They are used extensively in manufacturing and processing industries, power distribution systems, airlines, banking systems, and so on. Computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided manufacturing (CAM) are becoming popular among the large industrial establishments.

Business and commercial organizations need to store and maintain voluminous records and use them for various purposes such as inventory control, sales analysis, pay roll accounting, resources scheduling and management reports. Computers store and maintain the files and can sort, merge to update them when necessary. With the introduction of word processor, computers have been applied to the automation of office tasks and procedure. This is aimed at improving the productivity of both clerical and managerial staff.

The ability of computers to store large amount of data has led to their application in libraries, documentation centers, employment exchanges, stock exchanges, hospitals and various other establishments. The areas of computer application are almost literally too numerous to mention. Computers have become an integral part of man’s everyday life. They continue to open new horizons of discovery and adventure such as the electronic office and the home computer centre.

Lastly, we must remember that computers are machines created and managed by man. A computer has no brain of its own. Anything it does is the result of human instructions. It is an obedient salve which carries out the masters’ orders as long as it can understand them, no matter whether they are right or wrong. In other words, computers lack common sense.

The Input process output Concept:

Computers follow a cycle of operation known as the input-process output cycle. Raw facts known as data are provided to the computer. They are encoded in a way that the computer is able to understand them. The computer then processes the data with the help of certain instructions provided to it and produces a meaningful and desired output known as information. Processing is nothing but manipulation of data in accordance with the needs of the user.

The following are the characteristics of computers:

1) Speed: The computer was invented as a high speed calculator. Since then computers have been made to work at higher speeds. Speed is measured in terms of the processing time the computer takes to execute a given instruction. The lesser the time, the faster is the computer. We do not talk in terms of seconds or even of milliseconds (thousandth of a second). Today the units of speed are the micro second (millionth part of a second), the nano second (thousand-millionths) and lately even the pico second (million millionths) A powerful computer is capable of adding two 18-digit numbers in 300 to 400 nano seconds i.e. about 3 million calculations per second.
2) Storage: In computers, the internal memory of the CPU or the central processing unit is only large enough to retain a certain amount of information (i.e. it is finite) It is, therefore, impossible to store inside the computer, huge amounts of information. Much of the data is stored outside of the memory of the CPU, on auxiliary or secondary storage devices. Small sections of the total data can be accessed very quickly by the CPU and bought into the main, i.e. internal memory as and when required for processing.
3) Accuracy: The computer’s accuracy is consistently high. Errors in the machinery can occur, but almost without exception these errors in computing are due to human rather than due to technological weakness.
4) Versatility: Computers are capable of performing almost any task, provided that the task can be reduced to series of logical steps. Modern computers possess certain abilities that are peculiar to them. They are:

a) Perform complex and repetitive calculations a rapidly and accurately.
b) Store large amounts of data and information for subsequent manipulations.
c) Provide information to the user
d) Facilitate the process of decision making
e) Draw and print graphs
f) Converse with users through terminals

These are a few operations which the computers are capable of executing.

5) Diligence: Being a machine, a computer does not suffer from the human traits of tiredness and lack of concentration. Even if a million calculations are to be made, it will perform the millionth one with exactly the same accuracy and speed as the first.

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