WHAT ARE COMPUTERS

Since the Industrial Revolution, technology has seen the development of increasingly sophisticated machines to perform tasks that preindustrial man did by hand. These machines represent an extension of man’s physical abilities. the computer represents an extension of man’s mental abilities. it is basically different from anything that preceded it and is capable of bringing about revolutionary changes in society

Many people have expressed fears that the computer will ‘take over’ from human beings. It has indeed, revolutionized our society and can handle information millions of times faster than a human being. But, to solve problems, human operators must feed data into the machine together with precise instructions as to what the computer is to dow with the information

Computers in Operation

The computer is basically a machine for processing information. That is is capable of taking a set of data – figures in an account book, descriptions of the moves that can be made in a game of chess, or the personal preferences of a group of teenagers boys and girls, for example – and performing, on the basis of such data, it may compare that item with another item , or with some standard, or it may combine two items in some way. Our Brains, in processing the information fed to us by our senses, perform essentially the same operations.

The information fed into a computer is translated by the computer in its own language- the language of binary numbers, or binary notation. In our modern time there are names for some of these languages such as Linax, Python, C++, Cloud. Anyone that studied this new maths at school, or who has a child who has studied it, is familiar writing numbers based on two as the root number, just as a decimal notation is based on ten as the root number.

In decimal notation, the digits 10 represent to the first power, while the digits 100 represent ten squared (100) and the digits 1,000 represent ten cubed (1000). In binary system, the digits 10 represent two to the first power, the digits 100 represent two spared (4), and the digits 1,000 represent two cubed (8).

Charles Babbage, who in 1812 at the age of 21 devised the first wholly automatic calculating machine, proposed a much more ambitious machine in 1833- the ‘analytical engine.’ Although never completed, this was the basis of modern computer.

The advantage of the binary system in operating a computer is that there are only two digits 1 and 0. Any number, no matter how large can be represented by a combination of those digits. Thus, the number written 1,7776 in decimal notation is written 11011110000 in binary notation.

All information fed into a computer is in the form of binary numbers – that is , a combination of the digits 1 and 0. Within the computer, the digit 1 is represented by an electric pulse and the digit 0 is represented as a pause. A number or a coded word is represented within the circuits of the computer as a strong of pulses and pauses. Each digit is known as a “bit”. A computer’s complicity is judged by the number of it can handle, its speed by the rate at which it can handle them.

A computer has four main sections: an input unit, a memory unit, a control unit, logic unit and an output unit. The input and output units are the ones most familiar to the general public. In most computers, the memory unit consists of tiny doughnut-shaped ceramic cores which can be magnetised by a current passing through them. Their polarisation (direction of the magnetic field) depends on the direction of the current.

If one polarisation is selected to represent the digit ,1 the other presents the digit 0. Thus, each core can remember, or store, one bit of information. Eleven such cores would be needed to store the number 1,776. The main memory of a large modern computer may contain more than 10 million cores, giving it a capability of more than 10 million bits.

An IBM computer installation. Program and data, prepared by a computer programmer, are converted into numerical code and sorted on punched cards or magnetic tape machine. One of the earliest programmers was Lord Byron’s daughter Augusta, who complied mathematical programs for Babbage’s projected ‘analytical engine’

The logic unit may be very elaborate or relatively simple, depending upon what the computer is designed to do. No matter how many operations a computer performs in the course of processing its information and no matter how complex they become, they are founded on three basic operations at the level of the single bit. Known as the “AND”, “OR” AND “NOT”operations, each is performed by an electronic circuit. All operations of a modern computer can be reduced to some combination of these three basic circuits. For example, four “AND” circuits, four “OR” circuits and 1 “NOT” circuit capable of adding two single-digit binary numbers.

Everything about a computer, at the level of the bit, is very simple. Great ingenuity has been shown by computer engineers in building these simple circuits and memory units into structures capable of doing very complicated tasks- and doing them fantastically fast.

An engineer designer draws with a light pen on a computer display screen. Some computers can project drawing and diagrams stored in their memories. A designer may make alterations to these drawing by touching the screen with a pointer and pressing a button. The alterations are then fed back into the computer and the drawing revised.

A computer that is asked to multiply 100,036 by 24, for instance, simply adds 100,036 twenty-four times to come up with the answer. It can do this, however, in less than second. Most of the elements in the logic and memory units of modern computers work at speeds in microseconds (one millionth of a second) range.

Not only are computers getting faster, they are getting smaller as well . Say hello to the SmartPhone. Four “adder” circuits for example, which contain more than 150 electronic components transitors, resistors and diodes – can only now be made in a single unit block whose sides are only one millimetre long. A problem that took an hour to work out on a large computer in 1950 would take less than a second on a modern computer.

In the last 45 years since the introduction of the first commercial computer, computers have invaded every single area of life. We have passed the computer revolution that we have no gone to war with the system.

INPUT AND OUTPUT

Modern computers are theoretically capable of solving any problem that has a logical or a mathematical solution. Once cannot, however, despite the cartoons, simply go up to a computer and ask it the square root of 3,000,027. The computer must first be given the data on which it is to perform its manipulations and then be told, in exact detail, how to manipulate that data to get the desired results.

In most general-purpose computers, there are two main kinds of inromation handled, by input devises. For bult data, such as lists of figures statical tables or lists of names , the coputer is equipped with a card or tape reader, which reass the informatioon recorded on puched cards or punched tapes and then trandlated that information into digital terms. For recing instructions or questions from its human operator, the computer is fitted with a typewirtier keyboard on which the operator tyoes his directions r questions. the computer can also communicate with its ioerator through this keyboars, to ask him to clarify or correct a partocula command, for example. The output of bulk data is produced at speeds of 20 lines or more per second by any of a varitey of mechaincal, photographic or xerographic print-out units.

Computers play a growing part in publishing and printing Material can be fed into the computer at random and stored, then completely reorganized into its final form in a short time.

The computers usefulness with regars to any given process is determinted by the program that is written for it. Such a program, in most cases, is written by a human programmer, alhtough some computers have been programmed to write simpler programs for themselves and other computers. The program is nothing more than a complete set of computer is to solve the problem put to it. These instructions tell the computer where to begin its calculation, how to proceed from one step of the poperation to another, how to calculate the end results and whic to store for later use.

The input and output devices of modern computers have become increasingly sophisticated. Computers engineers are designing more and more special-purpose input-output units to allow relatively untrained people to use them. More computers, for example are equipped with cathodes ray display units. The computer can take a set of figures the specifications for a bridge, for example and display upon the screen a picture of the bridge that would result from those specifications.

A series of ‘cards,’ each carrying instructions, are plugged into ‘gates’ which form the circuits of the arithmetical control and logical units of this transistorized IBM computer.

Using special light pens, the designer or engineer can then make alterations on the displayed image. The computer will make any changes in the image that the correction has neccessitated and revise the specifications according to the redrawn iamge. The ideal computer, of course, would e one that communicated with its operator through human speech. The problem of getting a computer to understand speken directions is complicated by the great number of sounds that have different meanings in different contexts, and by the great varitey of ways in which different speakers prenounce the same sound. Some computers can respond to a small set of simple spoken commands. Others can understand a wider variey of spoken directions, by only so long as they are spoken by the one person the computer has been programmed to understand.

A student studies Fortran (formular translation), a computer language. This programming aid is mainly used in writing engineering and scientific programs. The U.S Military Academy at West Point uses a version of Fortran to instruct cadets.

Currently, computers that appear to speak are actually only playing segments of tape prerecorded by a human speaker; such computers have a very limited repertoire of responses. Much work is being done, however, on voices synthesizers. Welcome Siri, Alexa and Hello Google.

These would give the computer suffiecent electronic circuitry to create the varitey of sounds necessary to convey information verbally. A computer so equpped and properly programmed could speak a limitless number of words and sentences. However with the emergence with AI and being able to talk to the computer for simple commands you can understand why it is not as sophisitcated as you want it to be.

Computers can only be used successfully if operated by trained experts capable of visualizing any difficult situation that might arise and of suggesting new ideas. training may start at high school and continue with specialized courses as in in this computer language class.

AUTOMATION

The Jacquard loom, ancestors of the modern computer and one of the earliest examples of automation; punched cards control the weaving of elaborately patterned fabrics, as program cards control the computer

Any machine which goes through a regular sequence of processes is a candidate for automation by punched cards, punched tapes, or a similar control system. Metal cutting, bending and milling machines, typesetting machines, sewing and weaving machines and photographic processing machines have all been automated in this way. This sort of automation is, in effect, the extension of a skilled worker’s talents. Such workers is still required to workers talents. Such s worker is still required to make the control tape or cards for each new operation, but the tapes can be reproduced and used to run more than one machine.

Since World War II, Automation has been carried one step further, with the widespread rise of computers to replaced skilled workers. In the early days of printing, type was cast and set by hand. The invention of the Linotype in 1994 enabled an operator, working at a keyboard, to cast an entire line of type at one time, with semi automatic line of type at one at a time, with semi-automatic justification (evening up the ends) of the lines.

The 1950s saw the introduction of Linotype machines that could operate from a punched paper tape. The machine that produced the tape was much faster than the Linotype machine itself and one man could produce enough tapes to keep four Linotype machines going simultaneously. The punched machine was still somewhat complicated, however, and required a trained operator to run it.

Recently, computers have been built which can read paper tapes produced on modified typewriters by relatively unskilled typists and produce fully justified tapes that can then be fed into a Linotype machine.

Today there is hardly any major industry that does not rely on computer-guided automation to some extent. In some cases such automation increases the efficiency of a manufacturing operation without cutting down on the number of jobs to any serious extent. In the automobile industry, the computerised guidance of assembly lines makes the possible so wide and flexible a range of options that each car off the line is, in effect, custom-built model at a mass-produced price. The computer, in this type of installation, is doing the sort of job that no human could do economically. Furthermore, it does so without replacing any workers.

This complicated network of pipes and valves at an oil refinery is entirely controlled by computer. The valves are operated by motors which respond to commands from a computer in the central tower – an arrangement that allows split-second control of the flow through the pipes.

On the other hand, many factories have become completely automated. In partcular, the chemical and oil indistires and may of the food-processsing industries, have found it econoically to turn their entire production processes over to machines controlled by computers. The time has come where entire factories operatio with only a handful of superviosrs.

Computers are now built into machine tools. Detailed drawings are first made of the part to be manufactured and from these a set of instructions are prepared in A.P.T (automatic programming for tools). These instructions exactly are they are shown here- which describes both the part and the stages in its manufacture, are translated into punched tape which activities the computerized “brain’ of the machine tool.

In the early days of automation, the vey word has evil overtones, still does to a certain extent. Automation was the process, people were told, that took away the jobs of honest workers and turned them over to soulless, machines. Time has shown that automation actually works to solve overall unemployment. Not only are workers needed to build, install and service the equipment; but the automation process, by encouraging a rise in the number of manufacturing industries, also encourages a rise in the number of white-collar workers needed to run those industries and to manage the flow of products and materials.

Automation also enables the consumer to choose from a wider selection of quality merchandise. Throughout the years the price of these products have even reduced. These days you need a pretty good justification for pricing a product than it actually is, if you can’t, then it is daylight robbery.

The Industrial Revolution began the march to automation which has resulted in these ‘white collar’ workers in the control room of a large modern steelmaking plant doing some of the work formerly done by workers on the shop floor. Such automation eventually cuts prices and makes possible better paid jobs and better conditions but, in the short term, it also brings unemployment and early retirement to some people.

Special Uses of Computers

A weather bureau machine, with the help of computer-processed data, can quickly and clearly plot atmospheric conditions on a world map. Modern electronic computers have contributed greatly to advances in meteorological science, making possible much more dependable short- and long range weather forecasts.

There is, as yet, no operation a computer can perform that a human being cannot also perform, although the computer is usually able to operate millions of times faster than the human. The virtues of the computer – its tirelessness, its permanent memory, its ability to manipulate large qualities of data virtually simultaneously and its lack of emotional responses- make it an ideal partner for man in many for man in many of his more complicated virtutes.

As more and more versatile machines are built, and as more and more experience is gained in programming these machines, computers are entering into our lives in a greater and greater variety of ways. The architect and the engineer work directly with computers in designing and determining the building strategy for such buildings. In the pentagon, military stategists work with computers than can predict likely enemy responses in extremely complicated and detailed war games. In more an more schools and colleges, students work directly with computers.

The computer’s usefulness in education is based upon two of its unique features. First, it is able to recall in detail and at any given time each student’s past perfornnce. Second, the computer can adjust each students learning program to his abilities in that particular course of study.

In a typical educational computation installation, there is a central location in which the main working parts of the computer are located. this is connected by telephone line to input-output consoles in the individual classrooms. After they have been introduce to a subject by their teacher, the students work at the computer console to review the lessons. Through a set of earphones, the computer can ask the student questions (questions have been recorded by a human speaker, and the computer simpply asks those it wants the student to answer). The student responds to each question by typing his anser on a typewritter connect to the console, or by marking it with a light pen on the display screen.

If the students answer is correct, the computer complements him and goes on to the next question. If the student answers incorrectly, the computer has a variety of possible responses, depending on what the incorrect answer has been. It may give the student a hint, and ask the question again; it may go back to a simpler question and work back up to the missed question; or it may refer the student to his teacher, his textbook or a reference source.

Man created by the computer. In an attempt to determine human capabilities in the cockpit and the best arrangement of controls. Boeing and the Air Force collected data of Air Force pilots and fed it to a computer. The results included an aggregated profile of a typical Air Force pilot.

Computer aided instruction is still in its infancy. It has so far been used almost exclusively for drill and review purposes, in situations that require the initial presentation of new material by a human teach. it has been used almost exclusively for subjects which involve the learning of skills, such as arithmetic and reading, rather than for subjects which involve the deepening of understanding, such as literature and history.

A section of the Giant Computer used to solve nuclear fuel problems. Computers now make calculation previously considered impossible; to work out the value of Pi to 99.999 places, a man would need 30,000 years. A computer takes a few hours.

Finally, computer-based instruction has been limited by the programs that have been written for it. Writing a good program for instruction is certainly more difficult than writing a good textbook. A computer program has an advantage over a textbook, however, in that it can easily be altered to reflect the needs of the students. No doubt we will see more and more of the educational process come under the guidance of the computers.

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