Computers and Computing

A computer is a device that accepts data as facts and figures, manipulates those data using a specific procedure, and outputs the results as meaningful information. Fundamentally, a typical computer comprises of input and output devices, a storage device, a control unit, and arithmetic and logic units. These components are called hardware.

Computer hardware cannot perform a task without the help of programs, which are a set of logical sequences which the computer executes to perform a task. These programs, along with certain symbolic languages, are known as software, and it is the software that brings the hardware to life. A few of the popular software languages are C, C++, and Java. An operating system is the foundation software of the computer, and it acts as an interface between a user and the computer.

Since the time they were introduced, computers have branched out into two distinct paths, namely, analog computers and digital computers. Analog computers find their use in flight simulations for the air-force and passenger airline industry, industrial chemical processes, and nuclear power plants. However, with the amazing developments in digital computer programming and availability of simulation languages such as ACSL, Simscript, GASP, GPSS, and SLAM, the market for analog computers has witnessed a decline.

With respect to their range of sizes and computational ability, digital computers can be categorized into supercomputers, mainframe computers, mini computers, and micro-computers. Supercomputers are built to mimic large and dynamic systems; for instance, NASA uses such computers to analyze galactic data and meteorologists utilize them for simulating a tornado. Mainframes, on the other hand, are powerful computing systems that are used by large organizations to keep track of the transmission of data to a host of computer terminals and networks. Comparatively, mini and micro-computers are not that powerful, and they are predominantly used by small companies and home users. Micro-computers use microprocessors for functioning. Data storage servers can be used for storing data retrieved while performing data recovery services.

Although microcomputers, which include personal computers and workstations, are built as single user computers, they can be linked with each other through Local Area Network or LAN. Parallel-Processing is yet another method which is used to link up several PCs, or personal computers, allowing them to perform high-end processing which they cannot perform independently.

The process of computing involves the development of computer hardware, computer technology, and computer software. The activity of using the computer is also called computing. Computers have truly come a long way from being as large as a piece of furniture in the 1950s, like the IBM 650, to the present day computers, like Palmtops, which can sit on your hand. The newer computers also have computational skills which are more powerful than the earlier ones.

Useful Links:

Stanford Computer Institute
MIT Computer Institute
Computer Research Institute (CRA)
Caltech Computer Graphic Research
IBM Research
Computer Online Tutorials
Computer Dictionary
Computer Storage
Computer General Reference
Guide to Computer Vendors
Computer Useful Terms
Computer Operating Systems
Top Computer Magazines
Videos of How a Computer Works
Buy Books on Computers

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