Computer Studies

The computer system

A Computer is an electronic device known to be a very powerful tool for processing data into meaning information in a faster, neater and cheaper form. The Computer System is one that is able to take a set of inputs, process them and create a set of outputs.

A Computer is a general-purpose device that can be programmed to carry out a set of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Since a sequence of operations can be readily changed, the computer can solve more than one kind of problem. Conventionally, a computer consists of at least one processing element, typically a central processing unit (CPU), and some form of memory. The processing element carries out arithmetic and logic operations, and a sequencing and control unit can change the order of operations in response to stored information. Peripheral devices allow information to be retrieved from an external source, and the result of operations saved and retrieved.

Computer is an advanced electronic device that takes raw data as input from the user and processes these data under the control of set of instructions (called program) and gives the result (output) and saves output for the future use. It can process both numerical and non-numerical (arithmetic and logical) calculations.

An INPUT consists of data or commands that are entered into the computer usually via an input device such as keyboard, mouse, scanner e.t.c. The role of an input is to provide data for further processing.

Processing is the stage where the input data is manipulated to produce meaningful information. Procesing can include a number of stages, sorting, searching, calculating, graphing e.t.c The result obtained is called output.

An OUTPUT is the stage where information received via processing is presented to the user in suitable format. Most outputs involve converting digital data to a physical effect which a person can see or hear. You might be able to see your output via a print out or a display and also hear via music, voice training instructions.


The history of computer science began long before the modern discipline of computer science that emerged in the 20th century, and hinted at in the centuries prior.The progression, from mechanical inventions and mathematical theories towards the modern computer concepts and machines, formed a major academic field and the basis of a massive worldwide industry.

The earliest known tool for use in computation was the abacus, developed in period 2700–2300 BCE in Summer . The Sumerians’ abacus consisted of a table of successive columns which delimited the successive orders of magnitude of their sexagesimal number system. Its original style of usage was by lines drawn in sand with pebbles. Abaci of a more modern design are still used as calculation tools today

Charles Babbage is described as the ‘Father of Computer’. Charles Babbage, an English mechanical engineer and polymath, originated the concept of a programmable computer. Considered the “father of the computer”, he conceptualized and invented the first mechanical computer in the early 19th century. After working on his revolutionary difference engine, designed to aid in navigational calculations, in 1833 he realized that a much more general design, an Analytical Engine, was possible. The input of programs and data was to be provided to the machine via punched cards, a method being used at the time to direct mechanical looms such as the Jacquard loom. For output, the machine would have a printer, a curve plotter and a bell. The machine would also be able to punch numbers onto cards to be read in later. The Engine incorporated an arithmetic logic unit, control flow in the form of conditional branching and loops, and integrated memory, making it the first design for a general-purpose computer that could be described in modern terms as Turing-complete.

The various generations of computers are listed below :

(i) First Generation (1946-1954) : In 1946 there was no ‘best’ way of storing instructions and data in a computer memory. There were four competing technologies for providing computer memory: electrostatic storage tubes, acoustic delay lines (mercury or nickel), magnetic drums (and disks?), and magnetic core storage.

The digital computes using electronic valves (Vacuum tubes) are known as first generation computers. The first ‘computer’ to use electronic valves (ie. vacuum tubes). The high cost of vacuum tubes prevented their use for main memory. They stored information in the form of propagating sound waves.

The vacuum tube consumes a lot of power. The Vacuum tube was developed by Lee DeForest in 1908. These computers were large in size and writing programs on them was difficult. Some of the computers of this generation were: Mark I (electro-mechanical computer) built in 1944, ENIAC (First general purpose electronic computer) built in 1946, EDVAC (binary serial computer) built in 1950, EDSAC (first stored-program computer) built in 1949, UNIVAC (First Commercial Computer) built in 1951.

Other Important Computers of First Generation

Some other computers of this time worth mentioning are the Whirlwind, developed at Massachussets Institute of Technology, and JOHNNIAC, by the Rand Corporation. The Whirlwind was the first computer to display real time video and use core memory. The JOHNNIAC was named in honor of Jon Von Neumann. Computers at this time were usually kept in special locations like government and university research labs or military compounds.

Limitations of First Generation Computer

Followings are the major drawbacks of First generation computers.

  1. They used valves or vacuum tubes as their main electronic component.
  2. They were large in size, slow in processing and had less storage capacity.
  3. They consumed lots of electricity and produced lots of heat.
  4. Their computing capabilities were limited.
  5. They were not so accurate and reliable.
  6. They used machine level language for programming.
  7. They were very expensive.

Example: ENIAC, UNIVAC, IBM 650 etc

(ii)  Second Generation (1955-1964) : The second-generation computer used transistors for CPU components & ferrite cores for main memory & magnetic disks for secondary memory. They used high-level languages such asFORTRAN (1956), ALGOL (1960) & COBOL (1960 – 1961). I/O processor was included to control I/O operations.

Around 1955 a device called Transistor replaced the bulky Vacuum tubes in the first generation computer. Transistors are smaller than Vacuum tubes and have higher operating speed. They have no filament and require no heating. Manufacturing cost was also very low. Thus the size of the computer got reduced considerably.

It is in the second generation that the concept of Central Processing Unit (CPU), memory, programming language and input and output units were developed. The programming languages such as COBOL, FORTRAN were developed during this period. Some of the computers of the Second Generation were

  1. IBM 1620: Its size was smaller as compared to First Generation computers and mostly used for scientific purpose.
  2. IBM 1401: Its size was small to medium and used for business applications.
  3. CDC 3600: Its size was large and is used for scientific purposes.


  1. Transistors were used instead of Vacuum Tube.
  2. Processing speed is faster than First Generation Computers (Micro Second)
  3. Smaller in Size (51 square feet)
  4. The input and output devices were faster.

Example: IBM 1400 and 7000 Series, Control Data 3600 etc.

(iii) Third Generation (1964-1977) : By the development of a small chip consisting of the capacity of the 300 transistors. These Integrated Circuits (IC) are popularly known as Chips. A single IC has many transistors, registers and capacitors built on a single thin slice of silicon. So it is quite obvious that the size of the computer got further reduced. Some of the computers developed during this period were IBM-360, IBM-370, and VAX-750. Higher level language such as BASIC (Beginners All purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) was developed during this period.  Computers of this generation were small in size, low cost, large memory and processing speed is very high. Very soon ICs Were replaced by LSI (Large Scale Integration), which consisted about 100 components. An IC containing about 100 components is called LSI.


  1. They used Integrated Circuit (IC) chips in place of the transistors.
  2. Semi conductor memory devices were used.
  3. The size was greatly reduced, the speed of processing was high, they were   more accurate and reliable.
  4. Large Scale Integration (LSI) and Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) were also developed.
  5. The mini computers were introduced in this generation.
  6. They used high level language for programming.

Example: IBM 360, IBM 370 etc.

(iv)     Fourth Generation : An IC containing about 100 components is called LSI (Large Scale Integration) and the one, which has more than 1000 such components, is called as VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration). It uses large scale Integrated Circuits (LSIC) built on a single silicon chip called microprocessors. Due to the development of microprocessor it is possible to place computer’s central processing unit (CPU) on single chip. These computers are called microcomputers. Later very large scale Integrated Circuits (VLSIC) replaced LSICs. Thus the computer which was occupying a very large room in earlier days can now be placed on a table. The personal computer (PC) that you see in your school is a Fourth Generation Computer Main memory used fast semiconductors chips up to 4 M bits size. Hard disks were used as secondary memory. Keyboards, dot matrix printers etc. were developed. OS-such asMS-DOS, UNIX, Apple’s Macintosh were available. Object oriented language, C++ etc were developed.


  1. They used Microprocessor (VLSI) as their main switching element.
  2. They are also called as micro computers or personal computers.
  3. Their size varies from desktop to laptop or palmtop.
  4. They have very high speed of processing; they are 100% accurate, reliable,   diligent and versatile.
  5. They have very large storage capacity.

Example: IBM PC, Apple-Macintosh etc.

(v)    Fifth Generation (1991- till date) : 5th generation computers use ULSI (Ultra-Large Scale Integration) chips. Millions of transistors are placed in a single IC in ULSI chips. 64 bit microprocessors have been developed during this period. Data flow & EPIC architecture of these processors have been developed. RISC & CISC, both types of designs are used in modern processors. Memory chips and flash memory up to 1 GB, hard disks up to 600 GB & optical disks up to 50 GB have been developed. fifth generation digital computer will be Artificial intelligence.

  2. Speed: – A Computer must work very fast. A computer can perform millions  of instructions and even more per second. Therefore, we determine the speed of computer in terms of microsecond (10-6 part of a second) or nanosecond (10 to the power -9 part of a second). From this you can imagine how fast your computer performs work.
  3. Accuracy: – The degree of accuracy of computer is very high and every calculation is performed with the same accuracy. The accuracy level is determined on the basis of design of computer. The errors in computer are due to human and inaccurate data.
  4. Diligence: – A computer is free from tiredness, lack of concentration, fatigue, etc. It can work for hours without creating any error. If millions of calculations are to be performed, a computer will perform every calculation with the same accuracy. Due to this capability it overpowers human being in routine type of work.
  5. Versatility: – It means the capacity to perform completely different type of work. You may use your computer to prepare payroll slips. Next moment you may use it for inventory management or to prepare electric bills or to create classwork notes.
  6. Power of Remembering: – Computer has the power of storing any amount of information or data. Any information can be stored and recalled as long as you require it, for any numbers of years. It depends entirely upon you how much data you want to store in a computer and when to lose or retrieve these data.
  7. No IQ: – Computer is a dumb machine and it cannot do any work without instruction from the user. It performs the instructions at tremendous speed and with accuracy. It is you to decide what you want to do and in what sequence. So a computer cannot take its own decision as you can.
  8. No Feeling: – It does not have feelings or emotion, taste, knowledge and experience. Thus it does not get tired even after long hours of work. It does not distinguish between users.
  9. Storage: – The Computer has an in-built memory where it can store a large amount of data. You can also store data in secondary storage devices such as floppies, which can be kept outside your computer and can be carried to other computers.

All computers, from the smallest hand held computer to the largest supercomputer, perform the same basic functions with digital information. Those functions are:

  • Input – Receiving or accepting information from outside sources. The most common way of performing this function is through the information entered through the keyboard and the click of mouseTyping characters at a keyboard, moving the mouse around the screen or speaking to a computer.
  • Output – The results of the processing are made available for use by any user or other devices. The most common ways of producing such outputs are through computer monitor, speakers, and printers. When a computer is connected to other devices, including through Internet, this output is in the form of electrical pulsesDisplaying characters or pictures on the screen, printing a research paper, or sending an e-mail message.
  • Processing – This is really the core of computer operation. The computer processes the data that is fed to the computer by various means and the data already contained in internal memory to produce the results that is the core of all computer application. E.gCalculating the square root of a number, sorting a list of names, or producing a three-dimensional image
  • Storage – Store information in the computer. The memory is stored in computer in in several different ways depending on how the information is used. For simplicity we will classify in two broad categories. First is the memory in the central processing unit of the computer, and second is the auxiliary memory. The auxiliary memory includes devices such as fixed hard drives. The information stored in computer can also be divided broadly used in two categories. The user data and the instructions used for internal operation and processing in the compute. These instruction are what we call computer programs or software. E.g. Saving your research paper or resume, keeping track of your credit card purchases, or archiving digital pictures of your relatives
  • Retrieve – E.g. Recalling a list of addresses or business contacts

Computer can be used in all aspects of our everyday lives.

  1. Education : Getting the right kind of information is a major challenge as is getting information to make sense. Research shows that computers can significantly enhance performance in learning. Students exposed to the internet say they think the web has helped them improve the quality of their academic research and of their written work. Lots of academic information are available on the internet.
  2. Health and Medicine: All medical information and patient records can now be digitized. Software is now able to check the risk of a disease through computer usage. Mental health researchers are using computers to screen troubled teenagers in need of psychotherapy.
  3. Defence: a)Computers are used in helping the military find out where all their assets are (Situational Awareness) and in Communications/Battle Management Systems. b) Computers are used in the logistic and ordering functions of getting equipment to and around the battlefield. c) Computers are used in tanks and planes and ships to target enemy forces, help run the platform and more recently to help diagnose any problems with the platforms. d) Computers help design and test new systems.
  4. Sports: In today’s technologically growing society, computers are being used in nearly every activity such as recording information, analyzing athlete’s movement, score board e.t.c
  5. Government: Various departments of the Government use computer for their planning, control and law enforcement activities. To name a few – Traffic, Tourism, Information & Broadcasting, Education, Aviation and many others.


  1. The third generation of computer uses ……
    a. transistors
    b. integrated circuit
    c. micro processor
    d. ultra large scale integrated circuits
  2. Valves and vacuum tubes is a feature of ……..
    a. first generation
    b. second generation
    c. third generation
    d. fourth generation
  3. Computer can be used in defence. True/False
  4. One of this is not a basic function of computer
    a. input
    b. processing
    c. output
    d. collection
  5. ………. is not a characteristic of Computer
    a. Speed
    b. Accuracy
    c. Composition
    d. Versatility

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