What is a Computer? A Modern Definition of a Computer.

Although computers have, over the years, been defined in various ways, most of these definitions are, to say the least, pretty outdated. In a world of smartphones, tablets and other mobile computing devices, how, really, does one define a computer? The one thing that should be obvious right off the bat is that our notion of computers and computing has been radically transformed over the past decade or so. So, what is a computer in the 21st Century and how have these amazing devices changed our lives? Here is the modern definition of a computer;

The Definition of a Computer

  • A computer is an electronic device that is capable of accepting, storing, processing and outputting data.
  1. A computer is an electronic device

As mentioned above, the modern day definition of a computer is that it is an electronic device. This sets it apart from manual tools, such as the abacus, that were earlier versions of computing devices.

  1. A computer accepts data (input)

An important aspect for computers is that they can be programmed. It is this programmability that makes them so useful today.

Instead of carrying out only a single task, computers can be used to carry out a wide range of activities. These tasks range from simple word processing to graphics intensive gaming and video rendering.

The fact that computers accept data is the reason why I am able to type this article on my laptop. This ability to accept data is integral to the definition of a computer.

  1. Computers Process Data

The third quality that is crucial to the definition of a computer is that it is able to process data. Whatever it is that you need to do, computers are designed in such a way that they are able to carry out the computations that are needed in order to accomplish your tasks.

As I type on my laptop’s keyboard, as an example, the CPU picks up the input signal, processes it, and carries out the instructions that are laid out by the software that I am running (In this case, Microsoft Office Word.)

  1. Computers Store Data

Definition of a Computer: A computer's Hard Drive
A computer’s Hard Drive

Another of the things by which computers can be defined is that they are capable of storing data. This article is, as an example, being stored in the computer’s Hard Disk Drive (Hard Drive), from where I will be able to access it at any given point in the future. Not only that, but I will also be able to manipulate it by making revisions and additions.

Computer storage is, however, not limited to word processing. In fact, there is a wide range of data that can be stored on a computer, including videos, audio and images. Computer storage has, over the years, grown in leaps and bounds, with the result that modern computers are now being releases with Hard Drives that can store terabytes in terms of data.

  1. Computers Output Information

Another thing that defines computers is that they have the ability to output the processed data. Computer output can be through the monitor or through other devices such as printers, speakers and projectors.

Hardware and Software in Computers

The definition of a computer would not be complete without mentioning that they are made of hardware and software.

Definition of Hardware in Computers

A computer’s hardware refers to its physical components. These are the items that you can actually touch, such as the keyboard on which I am currently typing (input) and the monitor on which the words that I am typing are appearing (output). If you wish to take a closer look at the hardware that forms your computer, you easily do so by opening Device Manager.

mother-board example of hardware

In Windows 10, you do this in a number of ways, including by right clicking on the bottom left corner on your screen. Choose Device Manager in the list of options that appear. You can also open Device Manager by opening Command Prompt and typing in “devmgmt” and pressing the “enter” key.

In Device Manager, you will see the list of hardware devices that are connected to your computer. This includes Audio input and output devices, printers, monitors, Disk Drives, Keyboards, Mice, Network adapters and much more.

Knowing how to access Device Manager is very important, since it allows you to troubleshoot some of the problems that may occur with your computer’s drivers. These are usually caused by the fact that over time, a computer’s drivers may become corrupted or outdated, which leaves devices such as printers and keyboards unable to communicate with the PC’s Operation System (OS).

Definition of Software in Computers
Software in computers

Where the term hardware refers to the physical components that are on a computer, its software are the programs (instructions) that enable it to function. Without software I would not, as an example, be able to produce this article on my computer.

The only way through which I am able to do so is because someone has already written a particular set of instructions (Microsoft Office Word), which tell the computer’s processor how to behave when hardware keys are pressed.

The Link between Software and Hardware

A computer’s hardware and software are the keys to what we are able to achieve using our PCs and other forms of computers in today’s word.

The Hardware and Software work in unison to enable us to carry out a wide variety of tasks, from gaming to word processing.

Are Smartphones Computers?

Can Smartphones be defined as computers
Can Smartphones be regarded as computers?

What most us disregard is the fact that most people around the world now walk around with a computer in the pocket. Over the years computers have become smaller, allowing for devices such as Smartphones to carry enough processing power to compete with the best desktops of only a few years ago.

Indeed, Smartphones and tablets are, by their very definition, be regarded as computers. Not only are they capable of accepting data, but they also process, store and output it in any given number of ways.


We can conclude by restating the fact that computers have become a ubiquitous part of our lives. The definition of a computer is that it is an electronic device that is capable of accepting, processing, storing and outputting data. If you need to boost your computer’s speed, you should read this article for 8 useful tips and tricks. You can also find out more about Random Access Memory (RAM) in this article.

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