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1. Characteristics of computer generations 3
2. Input and output devices 5
3. Block diagram of computer 10
4. Introduction of number system 10
5. Parts of computer system 11
6. Types of computer 16
7. Software and its varieties 18
8. Limitation of computer 18



First Generation (1940-1956) Vacuum Tubes
The first computers used vacuum tubes for circuitry and magnetic drums for memory,
and were often enormous, taking up entire rooms. They were very expensive to operate and in
addition to using a great deal of electricity, generated a lot of heat, which was often the cause of

First generation computers relied on machine language, the lowest-level programming
language understood by computers, to perform operations, and they could only solve one
problem at a time. Input was based on punched cards and paper tape, and output was displayed
on printouts.
The UNIVAC and ENIAC computers are examples of first-generation computing devices. The
UNIVAC was the first commercial computer delivered to a business client, the U.S. Census
Bureau in 1951.

A UNIVAC computer at the Census Bureau.
I mage Source: United States Census Bureau
Second Generation (1956-1963) Transistors
Transistors replaced vacuum tubes and ushered in the second generation of computers.
The transistor was invented in 1947 but did not see widespread use in computers until the late
1950s. The transistor was far superior to the vacuum tube, allowing computers to become
smaller, faster, cheaper, more energy-efficient and more reliable than their first-generation
predecessors. Though the transistor still generated a great deal of heat that subjected the
computer to damage, it was a vast improvement over the vacuum tube. Second-generation
computers still relied on punched cards for input and printouts for output.
Second-generation computers moved from cryptic binary machine language to symbolic,
or assembly, languages, which allowed programmers to specify instructions in words. High-level

programming languageswere also being developed at this time, such as early versions
of COBOL and FORTRAN. These were also the first computers that stored their instructions in
their memory, which moved from a magnetic drum to magnetic core technology.
The first computers of this generation were developed for the atomic energy industry.

Third Generation (1964-1971) I ntegrated Circuits
The development of the integrated circuit was the hallmark of the third generation of
computers. Transistors were miniaturized and placed on silicon chips, called semiconductors,
which drastically increased the speed and efficiency of computers.
Instead of punched cards and printouts, users interacted with third generation computers
through keyboardsand monitors and interfaced with an operating system, which allowed the
device to run many differentapplications at one time with a central program that monitored the
memory. Computers for the first time became accessible to a mass audience because they were
smaller and cheaper than their predecessors.
Fourth Generation (1971-Present) Microprocessors
The microprocessor brought the fourth generation of computers, as thousands of
integrated circuits were built onto a single silicon chip. What in the first generation filled an
entire room could now fit in the palm of the hand. The Intel 4004 chip, developed in 1971,
located all the components of the computerfrom the central processing unit and memory to
input/output controlson a single chip.

In 1981 IBM introduced its first computer for the home user, and in
1984 Apple introduced the Macintosh. Microprocessors also moved out of the realm of desktop
computers and into many areas of life as more and more everyday products began to use

As these small computers became more powerful, they could be linked together to form
networks, which eventually led to the development of the Internet. Fourth generation computers
also saw the development of GUIs, the mouse and handheld devices.

Fifth Generation (Present and Beyond) Artificial I ntelligence

Fifth generation computing devices, based on artificial intelligence, are still in development,
though there are some applications, such as voice recognition, that are being used today. The use
of parallel processing and superconductors is helping to make artificial intelligence a
reality. Quantum computation and molecular andnanotechnology will radically change the face
of computers in years to come. The goal of fifth-generation computing is to develop devices that
respond to natural language input and are capable of learning and self-organization.

Before a computer can process your data, you need some method to input the data into
the machine. The device you use will depend on what form this data takes (be it text, sound,
artwork, etc.).
Similarly, after the computer has processed your data, you often need to produce output of the
results. This output could be a display on the computer screen, hardcopy on printed pages, or
even the audio playback of music you composed on the computer.
The terms input and output are used both as verbs to describe the process of entering or
displaying the data, and as nouns referring to the data itself entered into or displayed by the
Below we discuss the variety of peripheral devices used for computer input and output.
The computer keyboard is used to enter text information into the computer, as when you
type the contents of a report. The keyboard can also be used to type commands directing the
computer to perform certain actions. Commands are typically chosen from an on-screen menu
using a mouse, but there are often keyboard shortcuts for giving these same commands.


Pointing Devices
The graphical user interfaces (GUIs) in use today require some kind of device for
positioning the on-screen cursor. Typical pointing devices are: mouse, trackball, touch pad,
trackpoint, graphics tablet, joystick, and touch screen.
Pointing devices, such as a mouse, connected to the PC via aserial
ports (old), PS/2 mouse port (newer), or USB port (newest). Older Macs used ADB to connect
their mice, but all recent Macs use USB (usually to a USB port right on the USB keyboard).
The mouse pointing device sits on your work surface and is moved with your hand. In
older mice, a ball in the bottom of the mouse rolls on the surface as you move the mouse, and
internal rollers sense the ball movement and transmit the information to the computer via the
cord of the mouse.
The newer optical mouse does not use a rolling ball, but instead uses a light and a small
optical sensor to detect the motion of the mouse by tracking a tiny image of the desk surface.
Optical mice avoid the problem of a dirty mouse ball, which causes regular mice to roll
unsmoothly if the mouse ball and internal rollers are not cleaned frequently.

Two-button mouse with scroll wheel Wireless Macintosh mouse
Touch pad
Most laptop computers today have a touch pad pointing device. You move the on-screen
cursor by sliding your finger along the surface of the touch pad. The buttons are located below
the pad, but most touch pads allow you to perform mouse clicks by tapping on the pad itself.


Some sub-notebook computers (such as the IBM ThinkPad), which lack room for even a
touch pad, incorporate atrackpoint, a small rubber projection embedded between the keys of the
keyboard. The trackpoint acts like a little joystick that can be used to control the position of the
on-screen cursor.
The trackball is sort of like an upside-down mouse, with the ball located on top. You use
your fingers to roll the trackball, and internal rollers (similar to whats inside a mouse) sense the
motion which is transmitted to the computer. Trackballs have the advantage over mice in that the
body of the trackball remains stationary on your desk, so you dont need as much room to use the
trackball. Early laptop computers often used trackballs (before superior touch pads came along).
Trackballs have traditionally had the same problem as mice: dirty rollers can make their
cursor control jumpy and unsmooth. But there are modern optical trackballs that dont have this
problem because their designs eliminate the rollers.

Joysticks and other game controllers can also be connected to a computer as pointing
devices. They are generally used for playing games, and not for controlling the on-screen cursor
in productivity software.
Touch screen
Some computers, especially small hand-held PDAs, have touch sensitive display screens.
The user can make choices and press button images on the screen. You often use a stylus, which
you hold like a pen, to write on the surface of a small touch screen.

Graphics tablet
A graphics tablet consists of an electronic writing area and a special pen that works
with it. Graphics tablets allows artists to create graphical images with motions and actions
similar to using more traditional drawing tools. The pen of the graphics tablet is pressure
sensitive, so pressing harder or softer can result in brush strokes of different width (in an
appropriate graphics program).

A scanner is a device that images a printed page or graphic by digitizing it, producing an
image made of tiny pixels of different brightness and color values which are represented
numerically and sent to the computer. Scanners scan graphics, but they can also scan pages of
text which are then run through OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software that identifies the
individual letter shapes and creates a text file of the page's contents.
A microphone can be attached to a computer to record sound (usually through a sound
card input or circuitry built into the motherboard). The sound is digitizedturned into numbers
that represent the original analog sound wavesand stored in the computer to later processing
and playback.
MIDI Devices
MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a system designed to transmit
information between electronic musical instruments. A MIDI musical keyboard can be attached
to a computer and allow a performer to play music that is captured by the computer system as a
sequence of notes with the associated timing (instead of recording digitized sound waves).


CRT Monitor
The traditional output device of a personal computer has been the CRT (Cathode Ray
Tube) monitor. Just like a television set (an older one, anyway) the CRT monitor contains a large
cathode ray tube that uses an electron beam of varying strength to paint a picture onto the color
phosphorescent dots on the inside of the screen. CRT monitors are heavy and use more electrical
power than flat panel displays, but they are preferred by some graphic artists for their accurate
color rendition, and preferred by some gamers for faster response to rapidly changing graphics.

Ink Jet Printer
For hardcopy (printed) output, you need some kind of printer attached to your computer
(or available over a network). The most common type of printer for home systems is the
color ink jet printer. These printers form the image on the page by spraying tiny droplets of ink
from the print head. The printer needs several colors of ink (cyan, yellow, magenta, and black) to
make color images. Some photo-quality ink jet printers have more colors of ink.
Laser Printer
A laser printer produces good quality images by the same technology that photocopiers
use. A drum coated with photosensitive material is charged, then an image is written onto it by a
laser (or LEDs) which makes those areas lose the charge. The drum then rolls
through toner (tiny plastic particles of pigment) that are attracted to the charged areas of the
drum. The toner is then deposited onto the paper, and then fused into the paper with heat.
Sound Output
Computers also produce sound output, ranging from simple beeps alerting the user, to
impressive game sound effects, to concert quality music. The circuitry to produce sound may be
included on the motherboard, but high quality audio output from a PC usually requires a sound
card in one of the expansion slots, connected to a set of good quality external speakers or

A computer can process data, pictures, sound and graphics. They can solve highly
complicated problems quickly and accurately. A computer as shown in Fig. performs basically
five major computer operations or functions irrespective of their size and make. These are:
1) it accepts data or instructions by way of input,
2) it stores data,
3) it can process data as required by the user,
4) it gives results in the form of output, and
5) it controls all operations inside a computer.

Human beings use a 10 based or decimal number system, possibly because we have tens
fingers and ten toes. Computers use a 2 based or binary system because it can be represented
easily in hardware by on-off, open-closed, charged-uncharged states. For example a capacitor in
RAM memory can be charged or not charged. A charged state represents a 1 and an uncharged
(or not fully charged) state represents a 0. Likewise data stored on a hard disk at the molecular
level can be magnetically aligned in one pattern or its opposite. Each pattern represents a 1 or 0.

Decimal numbers can be converted to binary numbers, and vice-versa. This is essential as
humans work in decimals and computers work in binary. The pages in this menu look at how to
use each system and how they relate to each other. A look is also taken at the octal (base 8) and
hexadecimal (base 16) systems.
There are three Scratch files attached to this page that demonstrate the decimal, binary
and hexadecimal number systems.
If you use a desktop computer, you might already know that there isn't any single part
called the "computer." A computer is really a system of many parts working together. The
physical parts, which you can see and touch, are collectively calledhardware. (Software, on the
other hand, refers to the instructions, or programs, that tell the hardware what to do.)
The following illustration shows the most common hardware in a desktop computer
system. Your system might look a little different, but it probably has most of these parts. A
laptop computer has similar parts but combines them into a single, notebook-sized package.

Desktop computer system
Let's take a look at each of these parts.

System unit
The system unit is the core of a computer system. Usually it's a rectangular box placed
on or underneath your desk. Inside this box are many electronic components that process
information. The most important of these components is the central processing unit (CPU),
or microprocessor, which acts as the "brain" of your computer. Another component is random
access memory (RAM), which temporarily stores information that the CPU uses while the
computer is on. The information stored in RAM is erased when the computer is turned off.
Almost every other part of your computer connects to the system unit using cables. The
cables plug into specific ports(openings), typically on the back of the system unit. Hardware that
is not part of the system unit is sometimes called aperipheral device or device.
System unit
Your computer has one or more disk drivesdevices that store information on a metal
or plastic disk. The disk preserves the information even when your computer is turned off.
Hard disk drive
Your computer's hard disk drive stores information on a hard diska rigid platter or
stack of platters with a magnetic surface. Because hard disks can hold massive amounts of
information, they usually serve as your computer's primary means of storage, holding almost all
of your programs and files. The hard disk drive is normally located inside the system unit.
Hard disk drive

CD and DVD drives
Nearly all computers today come equipped with a CD or DVD drive, usually located on
the front of the system unit. CD drives use lasers to read (retrieve) data from a CD; many CD
drives can also write (record) data onto CDs. If you have a recordable disk drive, you can store
copies of your files on blank CDs. You can also use a CD drive to play music CDs on your
DVD drives can do everything that CD drives can, plus read DVDs. If you have a DVD
drive, you can watch movies on your computer. Many DVD drives can record data onto blank
A mouse is a small device used to point to and select items on your computer screen.
Although mice come in many shapes, the typical mouse does look a bit like an actual mouse. It's
small, oblong, and connected to the system unit by a long wire that resembles a tail. Some newer
mice are wireless.
A keyboard is used mainly for typing text into your computer. Like the keyboard on a
typewriter, it has keys for letters and numbers, but it also has special keys:
The function keys, found on the top row, perform different functions depending on
where they are used.
The numeric keypad, located on the right side of most keyboards, allows you to
enter numbers quickly.

The navigation keys, such as the arrow keys, allow you to move your position within
a document or webpage.
A monitor displays information in visual form, using text and graphics. The portion of
the monitor that displays the information is called the screen. Like a television screen, a
computer screen can show still or moving pictures.
There are two basic types of monitors: CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors and the
newer LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors. Both types produce sharp images, but LCD
monitors have the advantage of being much thinner and lighter.

LCD monitor (left); CRT monitor (right)

A printer transfers data from a computer onto paper. You don't need a printer to use your
computer, but having one allows you to print e-mail, cards, invitations, announcements, and
other material. Many people also like being able to print their own photos at home.
The two main types of printers are inkjet printers and laser printers. Inkjet printers are
the most popular printers for the home. They can print in black and white or in full color and can
produce high-quality photographs when used with special paper. Laser printers are faster and
generally better able to handle heavy use.

Inkjet printer (left); laser printer (right)
Speakers are used to play sound. They can be built into the system unit or connected with
cables. Speakers allow you to listen to music and hear sound effects from your computer.

Computer speakers
To connect your computer to the Internet, you need a modem. A modem is a device that
sends and receives computer information over a telephone line or high-speed cable. Modems are
sometimes built into the system unit, but higher-speed modems are usually separate components.

Cable modem

The types of computers range from the Hybrid to the Analog types. The computers you
come across in the daily course of your day range from laptops, palmtops and towers, to desktop
computers, to name a few. But the very word "computers" reminds one of the desktop computers
used in offices or homes. Different categories of computes have been devised in keeping with
our varied needs.
The Types Of Computers:Analog and Hybrid (classification based on operational

Analog Computers : The analog computer is almost an extinct type of computer
these days. It is different from a digital computer in respect that it can perform numerous
mathematical operations simultaneously. It is also unique in terms of operation as it utilizes
continuous variables for the purpose of mathematical computation. It utilizes mechanical,
hydraulic, or electrical energy or operation.
Hybrid computers : These types of computers are, as the name suggests, a
combination of both Analog and Digital computers.
Apart from this, computers are also categorized on the basis of physical structures and the
purpose of their use. Based on Capacity, speed and reliability they can be divided into three
categories of computers :

1. The Mainframe Computer : These are computers used by large organizations
like meteorological surveys and statistical institutes for performing bulk mathematical
computations. They are core computers which are used for desktop functions of over one
hundred people simultaneously.
2. The Microcomputer : These are the most frequently used computers better
known by the name of "Personal computers". This is the type of computer meant for public use.
Other than Desktop Computer the choice ranges as follows :
Personal Digital Computer
Tablet PC
Work Stations
Hand Held Computer

3. The Mini computer : Mini computers like the mainframe computers are used by
business organization. The difference being that it can support the simultaneous working of up to
100 users and is usually maintained in business organizations for the maintenance of accounts
and finances.

Analog Computers :
Analog Computers and Digital computers are the two kinds of computers, the
combination of which is responsible for the invention of the modern Hybrid computers.
Digital Computers :
Digital Computers are that kind of computing machines which work on the principle of
binary mathematics. Digital computing machines when clubbed with Analog computers produce
Hybrid computers. The digital systems work on the principle of binary mathematics. In binary
mathematics all calculations are represented through "0" and "1".
Mainframe Computer :
Mainframes are computers that are the most bulky types and with the advancement of
technology, they have almost become extinct. Computers are of three types - Mainframe
computers, Minicomputers and Microcomputers. Mainframe computer systems can be called the
predecessor of servers because they could actually support multi users though as efficiently as
the servers. Usually, a main frame would occupy an entire room and could cost over million
Minicomputers :
Minicomputers, what exactly are they? If supercomputers and mainframes are considered
to be the best in terms of mathematical operations then minicomputer systems succeed them.
Previously,minicomputers were considered to be superior to personal systems. But these days,
advancement intechnology has made minicomputers almost obsolete because the PCs today are
highly advanced.
Supercomputers :
Supercomputers are one of the many types of modern computing machines which are
capable of giving very speedy calculations. It is because of their high speed processing ability
that Supercomputer systems are used in such works as animation graphics, weather forecasting,
nuclear research work, petroleum research works, crypt analysis, molecular modeling and the
likes. You must be wondering then what is the difference between a supercomputer and a
mainframe computer system? While Mainframe machines are primarily used for a number of
purposes, supercomputers are so designed to serve a singular purpose.


Types of Computer Software

Designed to store data, a computer is able to function in different and desired ways only
due to a number of software applications that empower it.
Various types of computer software help it execute a variety of operations every day.
Computer software is available in different forms and types.
Classification of Computer Software
Broadly, computer software can be classified into three categories. One, system software
is the most important component for running a system or computer. System software is also
known as operating system which helps start a computer and works as a main platform in order
to run any application. A number of operating systems are in vogue that empower systems
globally. However, these operating systems have a category of server and personal computer
operating systems.
Customization vs Off-the-shelf software
In addition, any individual software package, which may fall into any of the above
categories, can be either 'off-the-shelf' or custom-built. Both are different and address different
levels of user demands. Applications such as ERP, CRM and BI, when implemented into any
enterprise, are usually customized in order to make them gel with the business processes of that
enterprise. It usually happens because of the scale and nature of a business.
The computer can outperform human beings in speed, memory and accuracy but still the
computer has limitations. There are following limitations of a computer.
Programmed by human:
Though computer is programmed to work efficiently, fast and accurately but it is
programmed by human beings to do so. Without a program, computer is nothing. A program is a
set of instructions. Computer only follows theseinstructions. If the instructions are not
accurate the working of computer will not accurate.

The computer can not think itself. The concept of artificial intelligenceshows that the
computer can think. But still this concept is dependent on set of instructions provided by the
human beings.
Self Care:
A Computer can not care itself like a human. A computer is dependent still to human
beings for this purpose.
Retrieval of memory:
A computer can retrieve data very fast but this technique is linear. A human being's mind
does not follow this rule. A human mind can think randomly which a computer machine can not.
One of the main limits in the computer is of feeling. A computer can not feel about some
like a human. A computer can not meet human in respect of relations.
Human can feel, think and caring but a computer machine itself can not.
A computer can not take place of human because computer is always dependent of