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Chapter one

1. Introduction to computer
1.1. Computer
 Is an electronic device that converts data into information through a set of step by step
 Is machine capable of solving problems and manipulating data
 It accepts data, processes the data by doing some mathematical and logical operations and
gives us the desired output

Computer can be defined in terms of its functions. It can i) accept data ii) store data, iii) process
data as desired, and iv) retrieve the stored data as and when required and v) print the result in
desired format.

1.2. Data
 The term Data refers to known raw facts about things like people places, events, concept

 Data is a collection of unprocessed facts about things like people, places, events or
concept that have inherent meaning.

 Data is mainly derived from accurate observation, experiment and/or research.

 Data can exist in the form of text, graphics, images, audio and/or video

Flow of data

1.3. Information
 Information is the processed data presented in a form suitable for human interpretation

 Information is a processed data that has been organized and communicated in a coherent
and meaningful manner.

 Information is mostly presented in the form of charts, summaries, averages and ranked
lists so that it will be very helpful in making ‘informed’ decision.

 Useful information is called knowledge.


The evolution of computer started from 16th century and resulted in the form that we see today. The
present day computer, however, has also undergone rapid change during the last fifty years. This
period, during which the evolution of computer took place, can be divided into five distinct phases
known as Generations of Computers. Each phase is distinguished from others on the basis of the
type of switching circuits used.

First Generation Computers

First generation computers used Thermion valves (vacuum tubes). These computers were large in
size and writing programs on them was difficult since they use low level languages (machine
languages and assembly languages). They used punched card as a major secondary storage media.
The memory access time of these computers was in milliseconds. Some of the computers of this
generation were:

ENIAC: It was the first electronic computer built in 1946 at University of Pennsylvania, USA by
John Eckert and John Mauchy. It was named Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator
(ENIAC). The ENIAC was contained 18,000 vacuum tubes, 70,000 registers, 10,000 capacitors and
required 150,000 watts of electricity. Today any computer is many times as powerful as ENIAC,
still size is very small.

EDVAC: It stands for Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer and was developed in
1950. The concept of storing data and instructions inside the computer was introduced here. This
allowed much faster operation since the computer had rapid access to both data and instructions.
The other advantage of storing instruction was that computer could do logical decision internally.

Limitations of First Generation Computer

Followings are the major drawbacks of First generation computers.

 The operating speed was quite slow.

 Power consumption was very high.
 It required large space for installation.

 The programming capability was quite low.
 The tubes produced a lot of heat and so they require ventilation
 They were unreliable because when the vacuum tubes get hot they would corrupt.

Second Generation Computers

Around 1955 a device called Transistor replaced the bulky electric tubes in the first generation
computer. Transistors are smaller than electric 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.

In the second generation that the concept of Central Processing Unit (CPU), memory, programming
language and input and output units were developed. The dominant memory media was magnetic
tape. The operating system used was batch operating system. The programming languages such as
COBOL, FORTRAN were developed during this period. Second generation computers were faster
than the first generation computers (the memory access time was in micro seconds). 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.

Third Generation Computers

The third generation computers were introduced in 1964. They used Integrated Circuits
(ICs).These ICs are popularly known as Chips. A single IC has many transistors, registers and
capacitors built on a single chip (thin slice of silicon). The dominant storage media was magnetic
disc. The operating system of these generation computers is interactive operating system.

The memory access time was in nanoseconds. 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, ICL-
1900, 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.

Fourth Generation Computers

The present day computers are the fourth generation computers that started around 1975. 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.

Fifth Generation Computer

The computers of 1990s are said to be Fifth Generation computers. The speed is extremely high in
fifth generation computer. Apart from this it can perform parallel processing. The concept of
Artificial intelligence has been introduced to allow the computer to take its own decision. It is still
in a developmental stage.

1.5. Application of computers

Why we use Computers?
The following are some of the capability of Computers, which are reasons to use computers.
 Store and process large amount of information with high speed and accuracy;
 Transmit information across continents via communication channels;
 Perform complex mathematical computations and make comparisons;
 Monitor ongoing industrial operations;
 Perform repetitive processes with great ease, speed, and reliability;
Therefore, computers are applicable for any functions or process that requires these abilities.
The main areas of computer applications can be listed as follows:
1. Learning Aids (Educational Application):
Example: learning toys, programs range from simple arithmetic to calculus, from English grammar
to creative writing and foreign language, and from basic graphics to engineering design models,
2. Entertainment: Examples: Games, Video …
3. Commercial or business applications
Computers are needed to perform business operations that require handling large amounts of data.
Examples are:

 Text processing, Accounting and Finance management, Inventory control, Database
management, clerical, administrative ,and Statistical analysis.

4. Scientific, Engineering and research applications

Computers can be used for scientific research, complex mathematical calculations, design work and
analysis and control of physical systems.
Examples are: Space technology, Meteorological observatory systems, Astronomical investigations,
For Design of machines and Control of manufacturing process.

5. Computer in Medicine: In medicine, computers are used

o for analyzing medical research
o to aid in diagnosis
o to hold details of patients
6. Computers in Manufacturing
 stock and production control (CAM-Computer Aided Manufacturing)
engineering design (CAD -Computer Aided Design e.g. Auto CAD)

1.6. Types of computers

Computers are available in different shapes, sizes and weights, due to these different shapes and
sizes they perform different sorts of jobs from one another.
They can also be classified in different ways. All the computers are designed by the qualified
computer architectures that design these machines as their requirements.
A computer that is used in a home differs in size and shape from the computer being used in a
hospital. Computers act as a server in large buildings, while the computer also differs in size and
shape performing its job as a weather forecaster.

Classification of computers
Computer can be classified different categories some of are:
1. Classification of computers based on the data they process (method of operation).
2. Classification based on purpose.
3. Classification based on functionality (size,speed,cost,capacity….).

Classification by the method of operation
They are classified into three:
I. Analog
Analog computers operate by measuring. They deal with continues variables; they don’t compute
directly with numbers, rather, they operate by measuring physical magnitude such as pressure,
temperature, voltage, current etc.
Examples: Thermometer, Voltmeter, Speedometer, gasoline pump, etc
 Gasoline pump – Contains an analog Computer that converts the flow of pumped fuel into
two measurements the price of the delivered gas and the quantity of pumped fuel.
They are special purpose computers.
Analog computers have limited accuracy
II. Digital Computers
Digital computers deal with discrete variables (which is not continues); they operate by counting
rather than measuring. They operate directly up on numbers (or digits) that represent numbers,
letters, or other special symbols.
Examples: Abacus, Desk & pocket computers, the general purpose computers
Digital computers have higher accuracy and speed than the analog ones.

III. Hybrid computers

The best features of analog and digital computers can be combined into a single device to form a
hybrid computer. A hybrid computer processes the information by collecting input data with analog
method, converts it into digital quantities, processes the digital values and converts the output from
digital to analog form.
In hospital insensitive-care unit analog devices may measure a patient’s heart function, temperature
and other vital signs. These measurements may then be converted into numbers and supplied to a
digital component in the system. This component is used to monitor the patient’s vital signs and to
send an immediate signal to the nurse’s station.

Classification by purpose of application

Computers can be applied or used for different purposes. Based upon their application, they are
classified as special purpose or general-purpose computers

1. Special purpose computers

They are designed to solve a single type of problem, that is their components and function are
uniquely adapted to a specific situation involving specific application.
 The public telephone box, Traffic control system, Ticket machines (used in grocery, super
market etc.), Pocket calculators etc.
Most analog computers are special purpose computers.
2. General-purpose computers

They are designed to solve variety of problems through the use of “store program concept”. A
program or set of instructions designed to solve a problem is read and stored into the memory and
then executed by the computer one by one. The same computer can be applied to solve another set
of problem using different program. General purpose computers are more flexible and versatile.
Examples: Microcomputers, Mini computers, Super computers etc.

TYPES OF COMPUTERS SYSTEMS (based on capacity and size of


Now let us discuss the varieties of computers that we see today. Although they belong to the fifth
generation they can be divided into different categories depending upon the size, efficiency,
memory and number of users. Broadly they can be divided into the following four categories.

1. Microcomputer: Microcomputer is at the lowest end of the computer range in terms of

speed and storage capacity. Its CPU is a microprocessor. The first microcomputers were
built of 8-bit microprocessor chips. The most common application of personal computers
(PC) is in this category. The PC supports a number of input and output devices. An
improvement of 8-bit chip is 16-bit and 32-bit chips. Examples of microcomputer are IBM
2. Mini Computer: This is designed to support more than one user at a time. It possesses large
storage capacity and operates at a higher speed. The mini computer is used in multi-user
system in which various users can work at the same time. This type of computer is generally
used for processing large volume of data in an organization. They are also used as servers in
Local Area Networks (LAN).
3. Mainframes: These types of computers are generally 32-bit microprocessors. They operate
at very high speed, have very large storage capacity and can handle the work load of many
users. They are generally used in centralized databases. They are also used as controlling
nodes in Wide Area Networks (WAN). Example of mainframes are DEC, ICL and IBM
3000 series.
4. Supercomputer: They are the fastest and most expensive machines. They have high
processing speed compared to other computers. They have also multiprocessing technique.
One of the ways in which supercomputers are built is by interconnecting hundreds of
microprocessors. Supercomputers are mainly being used for weather forecasting, biomedical
research, remote sensing, aircraft design and other areas of science and technology.
Examples of supercomputers are CRAY YMP, CRAY2, NEC SX-3, CRAY XMP and
PARAM from India.


Let us identify the major characteristics of computer. These can be discussed under the headings of
speed, accuracy, diligence, versatility and memory.

1. Speed

Computers can work very fast. It takes only few seconds for calculations that we take hours to
complete if we make use of computers. It’s the ability of the computers to perform basic operation
in a very short period of time.

2. Storage

The Computer has an in-built memory where it can store a large amount of data. It is also possible
to store data in secondary storage devices such as floppies, which can be kept outside a given
computer and can be carried to other computers.

3. Accuracy

Suppose someone calculates faster but commits a lot of errors in computing. Such result is useless.
There is another aspect. Suppose you want to divide 15 by 7. You may work out up to 2 decimal
places and say the dividend is 2.14. I may calculate up to 4 decimal places and say that the result is
2.1428. Someone else may go up to 9 decimal places and say the result is 2.142857143. Hence, in
addition to speed, the computer should have accuracy or correctness in computing. Computers are
free of committing errors by themselves unless there is error from the user.

4. Automatic

Once a program is in the computer’s memory, it continues without the need for human intervention
until completion. But don’t be confused that human intervention is unavoidable (for example it is
human that starts a computer).

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. Most computers now days are general purpose.

6. 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. Moreover, computer does not go on sick leave, nor annual leave, not maternity leave,
nor strike, nor require old age pension. As long as there is no failure of power and no defect in the
machine itself, it will never be un-operational.

1.8. Limitation of computers

Computers Can’t Think: Even if it is artificially intelligent, it does nothing more than it is
programmed to do nor does it know whether it could do. It does not create a brand new idea.

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.
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.