A computer is a general purpose device that can be programmed to carry out a finite set of arithmetic or logical operations. 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 that can change the order of operations based on stored information. Peripheral devices allow information to be retrieved from an external source, and the result of operations saved and retrieved.
The first electronic digital computers were developed between 1940 and 1945 in the United Kingdom and United States. Originally they were the size of a large room, consuming as much power as several hundred modern personal computers (PCs). In this era mechanical analog computers were used for military applications.
Modern computers based on integrated circuits are millions to billions of times more capable than the early machines, and occupy a fraction of the space. Simple computers are small enough to fit into mobile devices, and mobile computers can be powered by small batteries. Personal computers in their various forms are icons of the Information Age and are what most people think of as "computers". However, the embedded computers found in many devices from mp3 players to fighter aircraft and from toys to industrial robots are the most numerous.
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Famous quotes containing the word computer:
“What, then, is the basic difference between todays computer and an intelligent being? It is that the computer can be made to see but not to perceive. What matters here is not that the computer is without consciousness but that thus far it is incapable of the spontaneous grasp of patterna capacity essential to perception and intelligence.”
—Rudolf Arnheim (b. 1904)
“The analogy between the mind and a computer fails for many reasons. The brain is constructed by principles that assure diversity and degeneracy. Unlike a computer, it has no replicative memory. It is historical and value driven. It forms categories by internal criteria and by constraints acting at many scales, not by means of a syntactically constructed program. The world with which the brain interacts is not unequivocally made up of classical categories.”
—Gerald M. Edelman (b. 1928)
“The archetype of all humans, their ideal image, is the computer, once it has liberated itself from its creator, man. The computer is the essence of the human being. In the computer, man reaches his completion.”
—Friedrich Dürrenmatt (19211990)