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What Does It Mean for Computers : What Do We Mean by ‘Computer’?

What Does It Mean for Computers : What Do We Mean by ‘Computer’?

What Does It Mean for Computers


“What Does It Mean for Computers?” is not just a straightforward question but a query that dives into the complexities of technology, society, and language. In the modern era, where a toddler can intuitively navigate a touchscreen and cloud storage allows us to access data from anywhere in the world, the concept of a “computer” has transformed significantly. As technology has evolved, so has the meaning of the term. Once merely a tool for calculations, today’s computers serve as gateways to a virtually unlimited amount of information and a diverse array of functionalities. This article aims to provide a multi-faceted understanding of what we collectively signify when we refer to something as a “computer.” We’ll journey through its historical definitions, explore the functionalities that categorize a device as a computer, and take a closer look at advanced topics such as cloud storage—which has redefined how we perceive data storage by relocating it from our physical hard drives to remote servers accessible over the Internet.

The Evolution of the Term “Computer”

The Historical Perspective

Long before silicon chips and graphical user interfaces, the word “computer” had a very different connotation. Initially, it referred to individuals—often women—who were employed to perform mathematical calculations by hand. These human computers were critical in various fields, from astronomy to engineering. As technology evolved, mechanical and then electronic machines began to take over this role, offering more accurate and speedy calculations.

The term “computer” during this transitional phase began to be associated more with the hardware than the human element. Nevertheless, understanding this historical context helps explain some of the fluidity and complexity when we attempt to define what a computer means today.

Transition to Modern Computing

The 20th century brought forth electronic computers, devices that revolutionized not only mathematical calculations but also data storage, information retrieval, and communication. These machines were a far cry from their predecessors in terms of speed, reliability, and capabilities. With the invention of transistors and integrated circuits, computers began to shrink in size and grow in power, leading to the era of personal computing.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and what we mean by “computer” has broadened even further to include smartphones and tablets. These mobile devices, powered by advanced microprocessors, can perform a myriad of tasks—from video conferencing to digital art creation—that would have been unimaginable in the era of human computers. Even specialized devices like gaming consoles or smart TVs possess computing capabilities, adding more layers to the term’s meaning.

The advent of the internet and cloud computing has also radically redefined what a computer can do. Instead of merely serving as stand-alone calculation or data storage machines, modern computers are nodes in a vast network, constantly sending and receiving data. In this connected world, even our basic understanding of what constitutes a “computer” might have to be reevaluated as the lines between different forms of digital technology continue to blur.

By delving into these various facets, from historical perspectives to modern functionalities such as cloud storage and information technology roles, we better appreciate what it means for something to be considered a “computer” in today’s interconnected world.

Understanding Core Functionalities

What Makes Something a Computer?

When we talk about the essentials that make up a computer, we’re diving into the crux of what defines this versatile tool. A device is generally classified as a “computer” if it has three primary components: a processor, memory, and some form of data storage. The processor, often termed the “brain” of the computer, performs calculations and executes commands. The memory temporarily holds information that the processor may need to access quickly, while data storage is the more permanent vault where files and programs reside.

These core elements don’t operate in isolation; they work together to carry out an array of tasks. This could be as basic as performing arithmetic operations or as advanced as running complex data analyses or simulations. This interconnected system of hardware is what we generally mean when we refer to something as a “computer,” be it a powerful gaming desktop or a modest calculator. Even devices that we don’t typically consider as computers, like modern washing machines or car navigation systems, contain these core components, thus blurring the lines of what makes something a computer in our day-to-day lives.

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What Does I.T Mean in Computers?

Information Technology, commonly abbreviated as I.T, is an integral part of our modern understanding of computers. While the term “computer” might evoke an image of a physical device, when you factor in I.T, you expand this image to include an entire ecosystem. I.T involves the utilization of computers and software to store, retrieve, transmit, and manipulate data. When we’re discussing the scope of what computers can do, we’re also implicitly referring to the broader landscape of information technology.

In the realm of I.T, computers serve as the linchpin for a wide array of tasks: from data management and cloud storage to networking and cybersecurity. This infrastructure, both physical and virtual, supports the functionalities we associate with computers today. Cloud storage, for example, allows for the saving of data on remote servers rather than local storage, thereby altering our traditional concept of data storage within a computer.

Through I.T, the capabilities of computers extend beyond the hardware itself to include software applications, internet connectivity, and a vast array of digital services that make our lives easier and more interconnected. Therefore, when we discuss what it means for computers in the context of I.T, we’re talking about a complex web of systems, technologies, and protocols that enable the modern digital world.

By comprehending these core functionalities and the role of I.T in modern computing, we can appreciate the remarkable versatility and capabilities of what we define as a “computer” today. This understanding goes beyond mere hardware components to encompass the wide-reaching impact of computers in various sectors, from business and healthcare to education and entertainment.

Cloud Storage and Data Management

Cloud Storage Refers to the Storage of Data On…

When we discuss computers in the modern context, we can’t ignore the revolutionary impact of cloud storage. This technological advancement allows us to store data on remote servers that can be accessed via the internet, effectively making geographical location irrelevant for data accessibility. No longer are we bound by the limitations of physical hard drives in our personal computers or even in localized server farms. Cloud storage changes not only where our data resides but also how we interact with it, offering real-time collaboration and backup solutions that were previously unattainable.

This shift to the cloud computing is a crucial element in the contemporary definition of what a computer means. By leveraging cloud-based solutions, we’ve expanded the capabilities of computers beyond their physical form to a more fluid, networked existence. In a world where data management is increasingly shifting towards the cloud, understanding this feature is vital when attempting to define what we mean by “computer” today.

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At ITU, we offer an exclusive Cloud Computing training series designed to prepare you for certification and/or to help you gain knowlege of all Cloud based platforms including AWS, Azure and Gooogle Cloud.

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Defining Computer Data Management

Data management is more than just storing files in folders. It encompasses a suite of practices and techniques that allow for effective organization, storage, retrieval, and utilization of data. In the era of big data, effective data management is a critical aspect of computing. The capability to organize large volumes of data for easy retrieval and analysis is a defining feature of modern computers.

While traditional data management was confined to localized servers or physical storage devices, cloud storage has expanded these boundaries. Data management can now happen in the cloud, adding another layer to our evolving understanding of what constitutes a computer. Efficient cloud-based data management solutions, such as database-as-a-service, are changing the way we interact with data, making it more dynamic and accessible.

The Terminology Surrounding Computers

The ‘Definition of Computer’ Over the Years

The term “computer” has seen considerable evolution in its meaning and interpretation over time. Once confined to the realm of basic arithmetic calculations, today’s computers are intricate systems capable of performing an astonishing array of tasks. From graphic design and 3D modeling to complex data analytics and machine learning, the capabilities of computers have expanded exponentially [1].

Our understanding of what a computer is has been continually reshaped by technological advancements and societal needs. As we have moved from human computers to mechanical devices and finally to electronic machines, our definition has had to adjust to include not just hardware but also software, networking capabilities, and now cloud-based functionalities. In essence, when we say “computer,” we’re referring to an ever-evolving concept that transcends its original meaning, embracing new functionalities as technology continues to advance.

By taking into account these varied facets, such as cloud storage and data management, we enrich our understanding of what a computer signifies in this digital age. Our definition extends beyond the physical hardware and software to include the systems and infrastructures, such as cloud services, that enable modern computing.

Cloud Services

Get Ahead In Cloud Computing

At ITU, we offer an exclusive Cloud Computing training series designed to prepare you for certification and/or to help you gain knowlege of all Cloud based platforms including AWS, Azure and Gooogle Cloud.

Get access to this exclusive Cloud Computing Training today.

The Terminology Surrounding Computers

The ‘Definition of Computer’ Over the Years

The journey of the term “computer” through history is fascinating and multi-faceted. It was initially applied to human beings proficient in calculations, then mechanical systems, and now digital devices. Today, the term is a catch-all for a vast range of devices with computing capabilities, from supercomputers crunching enormous datasets for scientific research to embedded systems in smart appliances. As technological advances reshape our world, the definition of a computer keeps evolving, embracing new functionalities and capabilities.

This evolution is not just limited to what a computer can do; it also incorporates how it does it. With the emergence of cloud computing, for instance, a computer is no longer merely a standalone device. It’s often part of a broader network, tapping into remote servers for additional resources and services. Our evolving understanding of what it means for computers now encompasses not only the hardware and software but also the services and infrastructures that enable them.

What’s Computer: Breaking Down the Jargon

When it comes to understanding the nuances of what we mean by “computer,” terminology can either clarify or confuse. Jargon like “CPU” (Central Processing Unit), “RAM” (Random Access Memory), “Hard Drive,” and “Cloud” have become increasingly essential to grasp the modern concept of a computer. The CPU is often considered the brain of the computer, executing commands and performing calculations. RAM serves as temporary storage that provides the CPU with quick access to necessary data. The hard drive is where your data gets stored for the long term.

And then there’s the term “Cloud,” a concept that has redefined data storage and management, moving it from localized devices to remote servers accessible over the internet. Knowing these terms not only helps us navigate technological discussions but also deepens our understanding of what a computer can be. It allows us to appreciate the complex interplay of hardware and software, local and remote resources, that go into making a computer what it is today.


The term “computer” has undergone a dramatic evolution, tracing its roots from an epithet for human calculators to its modern interpretation, which involves complex systems made up of hardware and software. Our understanding has expanded to include data management practices and cloud storage technologies, making the term more layered and nuanced than ever before.

As we become increasingly dependent on various forms of technology, understanding what we mean by “computer” becomes ever more crucial. This understanding now goes beyond just knowing what a CPU or RAM is; it includes a grasp of how data is managed, how cloud technologies are transforming storage, and how interconnected networks of computers shape our daily lives. So, the next time someone asks, “What Does It Mean for Computers,” you’ll have a richer, more detailed answer to offer, one that takes into account the remarkable complexities and capabilities of modern computing.
Frequently Asked Questions About What Does It Mean for Computers

Frequently Asked Questions About What Does It Mean for Computers

What Does It Mean for Computers When We Talk About Cloud Storage?

When discussing cloud storage in the context of what it means for computers, we refer to the practice of saving data on remote servers rather than local hard drives. This has revolutionized the concept of data storage and management, offering more flexibility and access to resources.

What is the Definition of Computer in Modern Terms?

The modern definition of “computer” goes beyond just a device capable of performing calculations. Today, what it means for computers includes a broad range of functionalities, from basic tasks like word processing to complex operations like data analytics, often leveraging cloud technologies.

How Have the Core Functionalities of Computers Evolved?

Core functionalities have significantly evolved to determine what it means for computers today. Initially focused on arithmetic calculations, modern computers now incorporate data storage, retrieval, and manipulation capabilities, often enhanced by cloud computing and advanced data management techniques.

What Does It Mean for Computers in Terms of Information Technology (I.T.)?

In the context of Information Technology, what it means for computers is far-reaching. Computers are central to the IT infrastructure, helping in the storage, retrieval, transmission, and manipulation of data. This broad interpretation implies that when we discuss computers, we’re also talking about the systems and technologies that support them, including cloud storage and data management.

What are the Key Components That Make a Device a Computer?

When we explore what makes something a computer, we usually refer to essential hardware like a processor, memory, and some form of data storage. These elements work in tandem to perform a wide variety of tasks, further influenced by software applications and, increasingly, cloud-based resources.

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