The Ishango bone Devices have been used to aid computation for thousands of years, mostly using one-to-one correspondence with fingers. The earliest counting device was probably a form of tally stick. Later record keeping aids throughout the Fertile Crescent included calculi clay spheres, cones, etc.
Both old and new materials were used increasingly in the engineering industry, which was transformed since the end of World War II by the introduction of control engineering, automation, and computerized techniques.
The vital piece of equipment has been the computer, especially the electronic… Computing basics The first computers were used primarily for numerical calculations.
However, as any information can be numerically encoded, people soon realized that computers are capable of general-purpose information processing. Their capacity to handle large amounts of data has extended the range and accuracy of weather forecasting.
Their speed has allowed them to make decisions about routing telephone connections through a network and to control mechanical systems such as automobiles, nuclear reactors, and robotic surgical tools. These questions might be about DNA sequences in genes, patterns of activity in a consumer market, or all the uses of a word in texts that have been stored in a database.
Increasingly, computers can also learn and adapt as they operate. Computers also have limitations, some of which are theoretical. For example, there are undecidable propositions whose truth cannot be determined within a given set of rules, such as the logical structure of a computer.
Other limitations reflect current technology. Human minds are skilled at recognizing spatial patterns—easily distinguishing among human faces, for instance—but this is a difficult task for computers, which must process information sequentially, rather than grasping details overall at a glance.
Another problematic area for computers involves natural language interactions. Because so much common Current article on computer technology and contextual information is assumed in ordinary human communication, researchers have yet to solve the problem of providing relevant information to general-purpose natural language programs.
Analog computers Analog computers use continuous physical magnitudes to represent quantitative information. At first they represented quantities with mechanical components see differential analyzer and integratorbut after World War II voltages were used; by the s digital computers had largely replaced them.
Nonetheless, analog computers, and some hybrid digital-analog systems, continued in use through the s in tasks such as aircraft and spaceflight simulation. One advantage of analog computation is that it may be relatively simple to design and build an analog computer to solve a single problem.
Their main disadvantages are that analog representations are limited in precision—typically a few decimal places but fewer in complex mechanisms—and general-purpose devices are expensive and not easily programmed. Digital computers In contrast to analog computers, digital computers represent information in discrete form, generally as sequences of 0s and 1s binary digits, or bits.
The modern era of digital computers began in the late s and early s in the United StatesBritain, and Germany. The first devices used switches operated by electromagnets relays. Their programs were stored on punched paper tape or cards, and they had limited internal data storage.
For historical developments, see the section Invention of the modern computer. They were used by major corporations and government research laboratories, typically as the sole computer in the organization. These computers came to be called mainframes, though the term did not become common until smaller computers were built.
Mainframe computers were characterized by having for their time large storage capabilities, fast components, and powerful computational abilities. They were highly reliable, and, because they frequently served vital needs in an organization, they were sometimes designed with redundant components that let them survive partial failures.
Because they were complex systems, they were operated by a staff of systems programmers, who alone had access to the computer. Such systems remain important today, though they are no longer the sole, or even primary, central computing resource of an organization, which will typically have hundreds or thousands of personal computers PCs.
Mainframes now provide high-capacity data storage for Internet servers, or, through time-sharing techniques, they allow hundreds or thousands of users to run programs simultaneously. Because of their current roles, these computers are now called servers rather than mainframes.
Supercomputer The most powerful computers of the day have typically been called supercomputers. They have historically been very expensive and their use limited to high-priority computations for government-sponsored research, such as nuclear simulations and weather modeling.
Today many of the computational techniques of early supercomputers are in common use in PCs. On the other hand, the design of costly, special-purpose processors for supercomputers has been supplanted by the use of large arrays of commodity processors from several dozen to over 8, operating in parallel over a high-speed communications network.
Minicomputer Although minicomputers date to the early s, the term was introduced in the mids. Relatively small and inexpensive, minicomputers were typically used in a single department of an organization and often dedicated to one task or shared by a small group.Providing researchers with access to millions of scientific documents from journals, books, series, protocols and reference works.
ARTICLE: Data-intensive computing is one of the crosscutting themes in today's computer research. Many scientific activities depend on large-scale data analysis, scientific simulations, and verification of experimental results.
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