Computer Architecture : Function and Applications of A Computer

The functions and applications of a computer are almost endless, although we can sense four primary purpose that are linked to data (information) : Entering Data, Manipulating data, viewing processed data, and storing data. Computers are designed to transform raw data into information. The computer operates under the control of instructions, stored in its own memory unit and can accept inputted data, process it arithmetically and through sequenced based logic, produce information, and store the results for future use. All the applications of a computer derive from this basic starting point.

The four major functions of computers are as follows :

  • Data Input
  • Data Processing
  • Information Output
  • Data and Information Storage

1. Data Input :

Every computer is designed with data input as a first function, an activity which is accomplished via input devices. Application software used for this purpose will also dictate what data is entered. Word processing software is designed to input basic alphanumerical data, while a photo editing application is used to input and manipulate images. This data may be entered into a database, spreadsheet or other forms of a computerized work area. 

Data entry is done manually, automatically or both. Manual entry is done via add-on peripherals like the keyboard, mouse and stylus. Input can also be accomplished via vocal dictation applications and body gestures peripherals like Kinect and biometric devices. Elsewhere, data input is also done using secondary storage media and networking interfaces. Automated applications and robotics can also be used to intelligently feed data into the computer on station or remotely. As an example, tallying of electoral process can be accomplished remotely and automatically.

2. Data Processing :

Data processing is the core function of the computer system. Processing involves manipulation of raw data into information. Usually, data that is entered in the computer is in raw form, and will thus undergo processing before dissemination for user consumption. The 'brain' of the computer where data is processed is referred to as the microprocessor. It is also commonly known as the central processing unit (CPU). Besides the microprocessor, the dynamic random access memory (DRAM) and static random access memory (SRAM) are integral parts of data processing. Data entered via input devices is stored temporarily in DRAM, then transferred to SRAM from where the microprocessor manipulates it.

3. Information Output :

When raw data has been manipulated by the microprocessor, the outcome is referred to as information. This is the ultimate purpose of a computer for the typical user. The most common ways of producing such outputs are through computer monitor, speakers, and printers. When a computer is connected to other devices, including through Internet, this output is in the form of electrical pulses. The output data can also be recorded on to an external recording medium such as a DVD disk.

4. Data and Information Storage :

The last and very important function of a computer is data and information storage. The memory is stored in computer in in several different ways depending on how the information is used. For simplicity we will classify in two broad categories. First is the memory in the central processing unit of the computer, and second is the auxiliary memory. The auxiliary memory includes devices such as hard disk drive (HDD) and/or solid-state disk drive (SSD). The information stored in computer can also be divided broadly used in two categories. The user data and the instructions used for internal operation and processing in the compute. These instruction are what we call computer programs or software.

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