The Characteristics of a Computer

The Characteristics of a Computer
The Characteristics of a Computer

If you have ever been asked this question, there is a high chance that you answered with the word “computer.” And while this is not always the correct answer, it’s actually a trait of computers. But what other characteristics are there?

This post explores various characteristics of computers, as well as laws that govern them. For example, unlike humans and monkeys, computers do not make mistakes when doing math-based calculations. In addition to this and many other fascinating examples from both real life and fiction, the post also includes some tips for staying safe on the web (e.g., don’t click suspicious links).


What makes a computer “computer”?

A computer is a device that accomplishes computing tasks by following instructions. It can be anything from a personal computer to a microcontroller used in an industrial setting. One notable characteristic of a computer is that it is often controlled by input and output devices such as keyboards, mice, and monitors (e.g., screens). By contrast, the commands issued to a computer are sometimes referred to as “programs,” “instructions,” or “programs running on the processor.”


Because computers follow instructions given to them by their users, some characteristics of computers include:


They follow well-defined rules for how the processor interacts with input and output devices (e.g. a system in which a keyboard feeds signals to a processor and on the other end, a monitor displays information).


They cannot make mistakes when doing math-based calculations (i.e., they follow laws like the “law of identity” as laid out in the Scientific Method).


A computer is often made up of many components, each with its own instructions (e.g., an Intel CPU has its own instructions that must be followed to execute the program). As a result, these components are sometimes called “subroutines,” “modules,” or “layers.”


In some instances, computing can be accomplished by using other technologies or systems (e.g. a calculator).


Computers are not people

Computers and humans share some characteristics, including the ability to think, learn and solve problems. However, computers do not have feelings. If a human is unhappy or sad, it is because of how he/she feels. This goes for happy or joyful as well.


By contrast, if your computer becomes unhappy or sad it is because you have told it to be so (e.g., by entering an instruction in the command prompt). In other words, the computer has no emotional cues which might affect its ability to perform.


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