Introduction to Computer Fundamentals

By Erik Arvidson

A computer is a machine which can manipulate digitized data for a particular outcome based on a program that provides it a set of instructions. Computers can perform millions of calculations per second, store large amounts of data and are used for many business productivity and recreational tasks. Computers are also used to access Internet networks for communication and collaboration purposes.


A typical desktop computer has several hardware components. The most important piece is the system unit, which is basically a rectangular box that contains electronic components, such as the central processing unit, random access memory, and the hard disk drive which stores data. The monitor looks similar to a television screen, showing the computer's graphical display to the user. A modem device connects the computer to the Internet. There are also other associated parts such as the mouse and keyboard which control the computer. A printer to put data on paper is an optional part.


Software can be described as programs which give a computer instructions to execute. Most computers come with an operating system critical to a computer's performance, controlling devices, tracking files and directories, and recognizing input devices.


As required, a computer can retrieve data to its primary memory from devices such as hard disks or from a network. Once the computer has processed the data, it can send the results to a peripheral device. Computers use a stored program concept, in which instructions can be copied into its memory and then carry them out.