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Basics Of Computer

Himansu Sekhar
19/08/2017 0 0

Basic Concepts Of Computer:

1.1 Introduction:

A computer is a programmable machine designed to perform arithmetic and logical operations automatically and sequentially on the input given by the user and gives the desired output after processing. Computer components are
divided into two major categories namely hardware and software. Hardware is the machine itself and its connected devices such as monitor, keyboard, mouse etc. Software are the set of programs that make use of hardware for performingvarious functions.

1.2 Objectives:

  • After going through this lesson you would be able to:
  • Familiarise yourself with characteristics of computers.
  • Identify the basic components of a computer.
  • Explain the importance of various units of a computer.
  • Differentiate between system software and application software.
  • Explain the importance of operating system.
  • Get acquainted with open source.
  • Appreciate the need of computer security.

1.3 Characteristics of computers:

The characteristics of computers that have made them so powerful and universally useful are speed, accuracy, diligence, versatility and storage capacity. Let us discuss them briefly.

i. Speed:

Computers work at an incredible speed. A powerful computer is capable of performing about 3-4 million simple instructions per second.

ii. Accuracy:

In addition to being fast, computers are also accurate. Errors that may occur can almost always be attributed to human
error (inaccurate data, poorly designed system or faulty instructions/programs written by the programmer)

iii. Diligence:

Unlike human beings, computers are highly consistent. They do not suffer from human traits of boredom and tiredness
resulting in lack of concentration. Computers, therefore, are better than human beings in performing voluminous and
repetitive jobs.

iv. Versatility:

Computers are versatile machines and are capable of performing any task as long as it can be broken down into a
series of logical steps. The presence of computers can be seen in almost every sphere – Railway/Air reservation, Banks, Hotels, Weather forecasting and many more.

v. Storage Capacity:

Today’s computers can store large volumes of data. A piece of information once recorded (or stored) in the computer,
can never be forgotten and can be retrieved almost instantaneously.

1.4 Computer Organization:

A computer system consists of mainly four basic units; namely input unit, storage unit, central processing
unit and output unit. Central Processing unit further includes Arithmetic logic unit and control unit, as shown in
computer performs five major operations or functions irrespective of its size and make. These are:

  • It accepts data or instructions as input,
  • It stores data and instruction.
  • It processes data as per the instructions,
  • It controls all operations inside a computer, and
  • It gives results in the form of output.

1.4.1 Functional Units:

a. Input Unit: This unit is used for entering data and programs into the computer system by the user for

b. Storage Unit: The storage unit is used for storing data and instructions before and after processing.

c. Output Unit: The output unit is used for storing the result as output produced by the computer after processing.

d. Processing: The task of performing operations like arithmetic and logical operations is called processing. The Central Processing Unit (CPU) takes data and instructions from the storage unit and makes all sorts of calculations based on the instructions given and the type of data provided. It is then sent back to the storage unit. CPU includes Arithmetic logic unit (ALU) and control unit (CU).

e. Arithmetic Logic Unit: All calculations and comparisons, based on the instructions provided, are carried out within the ALU. It performs arithmetic functions like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and also logical operations like greater than, less than and equal to etc.

f. Control Unit: Controlling of all operations like input, processing and output are performed by control unit. It takes care of step by step processing of all operations inside the computer.

1.4.2 Memory:

Computer’s memory can be classified into two types; primary memory and secondary memory

a. Primary Memory can be further classified as RAM and ROM.

  • RAM or Random Access Memory is the unit in a computer system. It is the place in a computer where the operating system, application programs and thedata in current use are kept temporarily so that they can be accessed by the computer’s processor. It issaid to be ‘volatile’ since its contents are accessibleonly as long as the computer is on. The contents of RAM are no more available once the computer is turned off.
  • ROM or Read Only Memory is a special type of memory which can only be read and contents of which are not lost even when the computer is switched off. It typically contains manufacturer’s instructions. Among other things, ROM also stores an initial program called the ‘bootstrap loader’ whose function is to start the operation of computer system once the power is turned on.

b. Secondary Memory:

RAM is volatile memory having a limited storage capacity. Secondary/auxiliary memory is storage other than the RAM. These include devices that are peripheral and are connected and controlled by the computer to enable permanent storage of programs and data. Secondary storage devices are of two types; magnetic and optical. Magnetic devices include hard disks and optical storage devices are CDs, DVDs, Pen drive, Zip drive etc.

  • Hard disks are made up of rigid material and are usually a stack of metal disks sealed in a box. The hard disk and the hard disk drive exist together as a unit and is a permanent part of the computer where data and programs are saved. These disks have storage capacities ranging from 1GB to 80 GB and more. Hard disks are rewritable.
  • Compact Disk: Compact Disk (CD) is portable disk having data storage capacity between 650-700 MB. It can hold large amount of information such as music, full-motion videos, and text etc. CDs can be either read only or read write type.


  • Digital Video Disk: Digital Video Disk (DVD) is similar to a CD but has larger storage capacity and enormous clarity. Depending upon the disk type it can store several Gigabytes of data. DVDs are primarily used to store music or movies and can be played back on your television or the computer too. These are not rewritable.

1.4.3 Input / Output Devices:

These devices are used to enter information and instructions into a computer for storage or processing and to deliver the processed data to a user. Input/Output devices are required for users to communicate with the computer. In simple terms, input devices bring information INTO the computer and output devices bring information OUT of a computer system. These input/output devices are also known as peripherals since they surround the CPU and memory of a computer system.

a) Input Devices:

An input device is any device that provides input to a computer. There are many input devices, but the two most common ones are a keyboard and mouse. Every key you press on the keyboard and every movement or
click you make with the mouse sends a specific input signal to the computer.

  • Keyboard: The keyboard is very much like a standard typewriter keyboard with a few additional keys. The basic QWERTY layout of characters is maintained to make it easy to use the system. The additional keys are included to perform certain special functions. These are known as function keys that vary in number from keyboard to keyboard.
  • Mouse: A device that controls the movement of the cursor or pointer on a display screen. A mouse is a small object you can roll along a hard and flat surface. Its name is derived from its shape, which looks a bit like a mouse. As you move the mouse, the pointer on the display screen moves in the same direction.
  • Trackball: A trackball is an input device used to enter motion data into computers or other electronic devices. It serves the same purpose as a mouse, but is designed with a moveable ball on the top, which can be rolled in any direction.
  • Touchpad: A touch pad is a device for pointing (controlling input positioning) on a computer display screen. It is an alternative to the mouse. Originally incorporated in laptop computers, touch pads are also being made for use with desktop computers. A touch pad works by sensing the user’s finger movement and downward pressure.
  • Touch Screen: It allows the user to operate/make selections by simply touching the display screen. A displayscreen that is sensitive to the touch of a finger or stylus. Widely used on ATM machines, retail point-of-sale terminals, car navigation systems, medical monitors and industrial control panels.
  • Light Pen: Light pen is an input device that utilizes a light-sensitive detector to select objects on a display screen.
  • Magnetic ink character recognition (MICR): MICR can identify character printed with a special ink that contains particles of magnetic material. This device particularly finds applications in banking industry.
  • Optical mark recognition (OMR): Optical mark recognition, also called mark sense reader is a technology where an OMR device senses the presence or absence of a mark, such as pencil mark. OMR is widely used in tests such as aptitude test.
  • Bar code reader: Bar-code readers are photoelectric scanners that read the bar codes or vertical zebra strips marks, printed on product containers. These devices are generally used in super markets, bookshops etc.


  • Scanner: Scanner is an input device that can read text or illustration printed on paper and translates the information into a form that the computer can use. A scanner works by digitizing an image.
  • Output Devices: Output device receives information from the CPU and presents it to the user in the desired from. The processed data, stored in the memory of the computer is sent to the output unit, which then converts it into a form that can be understood by the user. The output is usually produced in one of the two ways on the display device, or on paper (hard copy).
  • Monitor: is often used synonymously with “computer screen” or “display.” Monitor is an output device that resembles the television screen. It may use a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) to display information. The monitor is associated with a keyboard for manual input of characters and displays the information as it is keyed in. It also displays the program or application output. Like the television, monitors are also available in different sizes.
  • Printer: Printers are used to produce paper (commonly known as hardcopy) output. Based on the technology used, they can be classified as Impact or Non-impact printers. Impact printers use the typewriting printing mechanism wherein a hammer strikes the paper through a ribbon in order to produce output. Dot-matrix and Character printers fall under this category. Non-impact printers do not touch the paper while printing. They use chemical, heat or electrical signals to etch the symbols on paper. Inkjet, Deskjet, Laser, Thermal printers fall under this category of printers.
  • Plotter: Plotters are used to print graphical output on paper. It interprets computer commands and makes line drawings on paper using multicoloured automated pens. It is capable of producing graphs, drawings, charts, maps etc .
  • Facsimile (FAX): Facsimile machine, a device that can send or receive pictures and text over a telephone line. Fax machines work by digitizing an image.
  • Sound cards and Speaker(s): An expansion board that enables a computer to manipulate and output sounds. Sound cards are necessary for nearly all CD-ROMs and have become commonplace on modern personal computers. Sound cards enable the computer to output sound through speakers connected to the board, to record sound input from a microphone connected to the computer, and manipulate sound stored on a disk.

1.5 Computer Software:

Computer software is the set of programs that makes the hardware perform a set of tasks in particular order. Hardware and software are complimentary to each other. Both have to work together to produce meaningful results. Computer software is classified into two broad categories; system software and application software.

1.5.1 System Software:

System software consists of a group of programs that control the operations of a computer equipment including functions like managing memory, managing peripherals, loading, storing, and is an interface between the application programs and the computer. MS DOS (Microsoft’s Disk Operating System), UNIX are examples of system software.

1.5.2 Application software:

Software that can perform a specific task for the user, such as word processing, accounting, budgeting or payroll, fall
under the category of application software. Word processors, spreadsheets, database management systems are all
examples of general purpose application software. Types of application software are:

  • Word processing software: The main purpose of this software is to produce documents. MS-Word, Word Pad, Notepad and some other text editors are some of the examples of word processing software.
  • Database software: Database is a collection of related data. The purpose of this software is to organize and manage data. The advantage of this software is that you can change the way data is stored and displayed. MS access, dBase, FoxPro, Paradox, and Oracle are some of the examples of database software.


  • Spread sheet software: The spread sheet software is used to maintain budget, financial statements, grade sheets, and sales records. The purpose of this software is organizing numbers. It also allows the users to perform simple or complex calculations on the numbers entered in rows and columns. MS-Excel is one of the example of spreadsheet software.
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