See also: Hardware | Processor

A machine that accepts data (input) and processes it into useful information (output). A “computer” is literally a person who adds. This title was later used to describe adding machines, and later to more complex devices. A computer may be anything that is a programmable electronic device which can process data. The computer is useful for mass communications, and has become an essential machine for high technology. Science has contributed to and benefitted from computer use, eg to research models, distribute knowledge, etc.

Digital computers were developed during the 1940 and 50s, initially for bibliographic purposes. The first all electronic computer was built in 1946 at the University of Pennsylvania. In the 1960’s the integrated circuit and the use of silicon semiconductorwas introduced. By 1975, the first commercially available computer was the Altair, which contained an Intel chip, and had to be ordered via snail mail and then self-assembled.

By the mid 1980’s the number of personal computer became greater than the number of mainframe computers and the microprocessor on a silicon chip spread to other electronic devices such as cars, washing machines, office equipment and many other appliances. With the ability to handle 64 bits at a time, the size of the instruction set increased and graphics improved. Personal computers use spread in the mid 80’s, with adoption by business, community organisations and goverenment institutions, schools, libraries, etc into the early 1990s.

During the late 1990’s, computers with multimedia capabilities, networking devices and a range of peripherals had become widely adopted. During this time, many new personal computers with a GUI became connected by the Internet. Nowadays, people closely associate a computer with Windows or the Internet. However, a computer can act independantly of either of these.

The similarities between computing and the Internet are considerable. Both have a history of which is filled with many notable pioneers. Both are pro-pluralism and anti-authoritarianist. Computers, and networks are force multipliers because their utilisation magnifies their power, for good or bad.

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