Impact of Computers in Todays Society
Computer, as the term is most commonly used, refers to the digital computer, an electronic device that makes lengthy or complicated calculations at high speeds and (except for certain small models) is also able to make decisions based on logic.A less common type of computer is the analog computer.A digital computer forms the core of a data processing system.
Data processing is, basically, the organization of information into a useful form by such processes as comparing, selecting, and arranging. A very simple example of data processing is alphabetizing a list of names.
Electronic data processing, or EDP, is data processing performed by a computer. Computers vary greatly in the speed at which they can perform calculations and in their ability to handle complicated tasks. Computers also vary greatly in size—from arrays of equipment occupying a large room to a slice of silicon smaller than a postage stamp. In general, small computers are referred to as microcomputers; large computers, as mainframes; and computers of intermediate size, as minicomputers. General-purpose microcomputers are commonly called personal computers.
The computer ranks as one of the major technological developments of the 20th century. Beginning about 1950, it took the computer less than two decades to revolutionize the methods of business, industry, and government; to greatly advance work in the sciences; and to find wide application in such diverse fields as accounting, education, medicine, and publishing. Today, the computer industry—which includes the manufacturing of computers, the designing and marketing of computer programs, and the providing of computer-related services—is among the most important in the world.
History Early forerunners of the computer were the abacus, developed in the ancient times in the Far East, and an adding machine invented in 1641 by Blaise Pascal of France. The principle of the punched card was developed about 1801 by Joseph Marie Jacquard, also of France. His cards were used to control the pattern produced in textiles by a loom. All of the basic principles of the modern digital computer—input and output devices, storage and arithmetic units, and the sequencing of instructions—were conceived in the 1820’s and 1830’s by Charles Babbage, an English mathematician.
He completed a small computer, called a difference engine, in 1822. It consisted primarily of gears and levers and was similar to a modern mechanical desk calculator. Impact and use of computers A computer is a high-speed mathematician, file clerk, and a typist. It can perform many thousands of times more rapidly than human without error. Its many uses grow out of these characteristics. Computers are used in business to do many routine and time-consuming jobs, such as handling billing, payrolls, and inventory.
Computers can be used in making forecasts of future sales figures or economic conditions. In many organizations, computers are used as word processors, simplifying the production of reports, letters, and other documents. Some organizations routinely transmit memos and other messages by means of computer linkups, a form of communication known as electronic mail. Reporters, salespeople, and other workers can produce their written work on portable computers and then transmit the work to an office via telephone lines.
In the school, computers are used in many classrooms to assist teachers in instructing students. Computers are used in a variety of ways, from supplying simple drills to providing complex simulations of such processes as conducting a scientific experiments or managing a large company. In such sciences as physics, chemistry, and psychology, computers are used to monitor experiments and organize the results so that they can be interpreted more easily. In astronomy, computers perform the complicated alculations necessary for determining the orbits and relative positions of various heavenly bodies. In engineering, computers are used to help produce and evaluate the design of new products. Another use of computers is to control industrial processes. This form of control, a type of automation, has been applied to such processes as machining, oil refining, and the manufacture of chemicals. Another industrial use is to control robots used in assembly operations.
Computers are essential for a variety of functions performed by government agencies. For example, computers are used by the National Weather Services for analyzing large amounts of weather data to make weather forecasts; by the Federal Aviation Administration for operating the complex equipment needed to direct air traffic; by the Internal Revenue Service for handling tax records; by the Census Bureau for compiling statistical data on the country’s population; and by the military for communication, defense, and weapons systems.
In the home, computers are used for a number of purposes. A popular used of home computers is for playing video games. They are also used to gain access by telephone hook-up to networks providing a variety of information and communication services. In some homes, computers are used for word processing and for maintaining household records. It is also known to surf the web and collect various information off of the internet. Many people work off of a computer for a living.
A computer can perform a virtually unlimited number of calculations, one after another, without further action on the part of the person using it. It is this ability that sets a computer apart from an ordinary calculating machine, which requires control by a human operator for each calculation. Although the computer itself deals only with numbers, it can work with information that was not originally in numerical form if that information lends itself to mathematical and logical analysis.
It does so by first converting the information into numbers; it then performs calculations with the numbers and converts the result into a usable form. Although computer does not think, it does make decisions. Each decision is based on a logical pattern previously stored—by a human being—in the computer. It makes a decision by following instructions such as “If the number you are reading is 10 or less, proceed to the next step. If it is greater than 10, skip the next step. ” In making decisions, the computer uses the same processes as those described in the article LOGIC.