<computer> A machine that can be programmed to manipulate symbols.
Computers can perform complex and repetitive procedures quickly, precisely and
reliably and can quickly store and retrieve large amounts of data.
The physical components from which a computer is constructed (electronic
circuits and input/output devices) are known as "hardware". Most computers have
four types of hardware component: CPU, input, output and memory. The CPU
(central processing unit) executes programs ("software") which tell the computer
what to do. Input and output (I/O) devices allow the computer to communicate
with the user and the outside world. There are several kinds of memory - fast,
expensive, short term memory (e.g. RAM) to hold intermediate results, and
slower, cheaper, long-term memory (e.g. magnetic disk and magnetic tape) to hold
programs and data between jobs.
See also analogue computer.
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