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The Four Main Functions of Computers

Updated on September 17, 2017
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Alfred is a long-time teacher and computer enthusiast who works with and troubleshoots a wide range of computing devices.

The four major functions of computers actually explain the core reasons why they were built in the first place. Typically, they are used to input raw data through input devices, which data is handed over to memory for processing. The microprocessor promptly converts the raw data into useful information, which is then disseminated via relevant output and storage media.

For example, the user composes a letter by inputting and editing sets of letters, numbers and symbols using a keyboard. The input is then processed and viewed real-time via display hardware.

Still, the user may choose to print the letter onto paper, or better still send it via electronic mail to intended recipients.

The same data and information can be stored digitally in specialized disk drives or other media for future reference.

1. Data Entry

Every computer is designed with data entry as a pivotal function, an activity which is accomplished via input devices.

The application software used for this purpose will also dictate how data is entered. This can be done manually, automatically or both.

Manual entry is done via add-on peripherals like the keyboard. This before manipulation and eventual display or storage.

Data can also be entered via vocal dictation applications and body gestures peripherals like Kinect and biometric devices.

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.

Laptop keyboard and touchpad
Laptop keyboard and touchpad

2. Data Processing

Data processing is the core function of the computer system.

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) or accelerated processing unit (APU).

The processing chips in modern personal computing devices continue to evolve and outperform its predecessors. One particular evolution is the merger of microprocessor and graphics processing unit (GPU) into what is now known as accelerated processing unit (APU). The merger allows for the integration of powerful graphics processing abilities inside the traditional arithmetic and logical computations of the processor.

Besides the microprocessor, random access memory (RAM) is an integral part of data processing. Data entered via input devices is stored temporarily in RAM from where the microprocessor manipulates it. Given its apparent speed, RAM is a preferred platform to secondary memory which is slower in response.

An AMD microprocessor, inserted onto a laptop motherboard socket
An AMD microprocessor, inserted onto a laptop motherboard socket

3. Information Output

When raw data has been fed to the microprocessor for manipulation, the end result is referred to as information.

Output formes come in many ways.

Processed data or information can be:

  • viewed as text or video via display monitor
  • listened to as audio files by use of a speaker
  • printed as hard copy output onto paper
  • printed as 3D models

TV output on an a computer is an example of output
TV output on an a computer is an example of output

The information to be viewed on the monitor could be:

  • text
  • audiovisual recording
  • mp3 file

4. Data and Information Storage

The last and very important function of a computer is data and information storage.

A computer can store information internally and externally. The hard disk drive (HDD) and/or solid-state disk drive (SSD) are internal storage devices and serve to protect and house all data and information within a computer. In bigger systems, the RAID system is used. Multiple disk drives operate simultaneously to ensure data and information integrity.

External storage is achieved through accessories that attach externally to the computer. They include external drives and optical disks.

Better still data and information can be stored online in cloud solutions for a fee or for a fee if large space is required.

Storage integrity is a crucial phase that can actually determine the worth of a computer system. In any case, what use is a computer without data and information?

Information created in the computer can be stored onto CDs and DVD
Information created in the computer can be stored onto CDs and DVD

© 2013 Alfred Amuno


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      thanks it help me to access my assignment 4 days ago

      thanks it help me to access my assignment

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      Sa,ad musa muhammad 3 months ago

      Peace and conflict

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      Ratih Firdi 8 months ago from Indonesia

      thank nice article

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      jael 11 months ago

      good information like it

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      Alfred Amuno 15 months ago from Kampala

      Thanks for appreciating Alvin

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      Alvin 15 months ago

      THANK YOU!! I will cite your work =))

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      faheem 22 months ago


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      Alfred Amuno 23 months ago from Kampala

      Glad that you found the info herein helpful, Hope.

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      esmiralda hope 23 months ago

      OMG that is great cant wait for the test