The Four Functions of a Computer

Updated on January 28, 2019
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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 functions of a computer actually explain the core reasons why it was built. They include:

  • Data input
  • Data processing.
  • Information output.
  • Data and information storage.

An illustration of the four functions of a computer
An illustration of the four functions of a computer

To illustrate the four functions of a computer, we can take a look at the basic steps we all go through to produce a LETTER on the computer.

It starts when the user composes, inputs and edits sets of letters, numbers and symbols using a keyboard. The raw data is then processed and viewed real-time via display hardware.

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

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

1. Data Input

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

Data entry is done manually, automatically or both. Manual input is done via add-on peripherals like the keyboard, mouse and stylus. Input can also be accomplished via vocal dictation applications and body gestures peripherals like Kinect and biometric devices. Elsewhere, data input is also done using secondary storage media and networking interfaces.

Application software used for this purpose will also dictate what data is entered. Word processing software is designed to input basic alphanumerical data, while a photo editing application is used to input and manipulate images.

This data may be entered into a database, spreadsheet or other forms of a computerized work area.

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 a computer. Processing involves manipulation of raw data into before converting it into meaningful information. Usually, data is in raw form, and will thus undergo processing before dissemination for user consumption.

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. The merger allows for the integration of powerful graphics processing abilities inside the traditional arithmetic and logical computations of the processor.

Besides the microprocessor, the dynamic random access memory (DRAM) and static random access memory (SRAM) are integral parts of data processing. Data entered via input devices is stored temporarily in DRAM, then transferred to SRAM from where the microprocessor manipulates it.

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

3. Information Output

When raw data has been manipulated by the microprocessor, the outcome is meant to be disseminated for useful purposes. The output is thus referred to as information and is beneficial to the computer user.

Processed data or information can be,

  • viewed as alphanumeric, images and video via a display hardware
  • listened to as audio files by use of a speaker
  • printed as hard copy output onto paper
  • printed as 3D models

TV output on a computer screen
TV output on a computer screen

4. Data and Information Storage

The fourth and equally very important function of a computer is data and information storage. After sleepless nights of video and animation creation and editing, the user wants to have the finished product stored for future dissemination and additional editing.

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 on 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 DVDs
Information created in the computer can be stored onto CDs and DVDs

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Alfred Amuno

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    • profile image

      wisdom sam 

      4 days ago

      wow this help, thanks

    • profile image

      Anumeha Roy 

      2 weeks ago

      Nice answer.....but needs improvement !

    • profile image

      Anup 

      5 weeks ago

      Fine

    • profile image

      Hashimu 

      2 months ago

      Very like it

    • profile image

      Amy 

      2 months ago

      Thanks a lot. It really helped

    • profile image

      Alheri John 

      4 months ago

      good

    • profile image

      franciska pius 

      4 months ago

      thanks a lot it meant a lot to me. i mean it really helped.

    • profile image

      isah hassan 

      8 months ago

      what is the different between hard disk and solid state disk?

    • profile image

      alex 

      10 months ago

      great work. you are a mentor.

    • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfred Amuno 

      12 months ago from Kampala

      Thank you, Adam Ali and all those whose comments mean a lot. I am grateful the content is beneficial.

    • profile image

      Adam ali nor 

      12 months ago

      Thanks for your helping us

    • profile image

      David 

      12 months ago

      Thank you so much

    • profile image

      ricky marodza zou zimbabwe 

      12 months ago

      great thank you so much

    • profile image

      qandeel zahra 

      12 months ago

      explain working of function of computer?

    • profile image

      Monika. ND 

      14 months ago

      Its very nice to see

    • profile image

      Norman Muchemwa 

      14 months ago

      What are the four functions of a computer referring to hardware and software used to perform such functions

    • profile image

      said dhorre 

      16 months ago

      input output memory processing

    • profile image

      Harisankar 

      16 months ago

      Inputting is computer function

    • profile image

      Franky 

      16 months ago

      Hello!

      Anyone up to answer my question?

      Here!

      State 5function that a digital computer carry out?

    • profile image

      Pema yangchen 

      17 months ago

      it was really helpful. Tank you

    • profile image

      saadik 

      17 months ago

      Thank you sir for your help☺☺☺

    • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfred Amuno 

      17 months ago from Kampala

      Thanks for appreciating and its good to know that results went your way.

    • profile image

      I love informations 

      17 months ago

      Thanks for the information sir.i got high score on my test

    • profile image

      Neighbor 

      18 months ago

      I love this, I will cite your work

    • profile image

      Theman 

      18 months ago

      This is good alfred, SO GOOD!

    • profile image

      Hassan 

      19 months ago

      This page help me to learn hardware components.

      Thanks alot

    • profile image

      HARMONEY 

      21 months ago

      nice information

    • profile image

      St 

      22 months ago

      Thanks for your help

    • profile image

      thanks it help me to access my assignment 

      24 months ago

      thanks it help me to access my assignment

    • profile image

      Sa,ad musa muhammad 

      2 years ago

      Peace and conflict

    • dballikcom profile image

      Ratih Firdi 

      2 years ago from Indonesia

      thank nice article

    • profile image

      jael 

      2 years ago

      good information like it

    • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfred Amuno 

      3 years ago from Kampala

      Thanks for appreciating Alvin

    • profile image

      Alvin 

      3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      faheem 

      3 years ago

      good

    • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfred Amuno 

      3 years ago from Kampala

      Glad that you found the info herein helpful, Hope.

    • profile image

      esmiralda hope 

      3 years ago

      OMG that is great cant wait for the test

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