Digital computer

What is a computer?

A computer* is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations* automatically. Each operation is described by a specific instruction* to be performed. Modern digital electronic computers have a generic set of operations and instructions,* and they have the capability to execute specific sets of them known as programs.* The programs enable computers to perform a wide range of tasks.

digital computer; arithmetic operation; logical operation; instruction; instruction set; program

A working definition of a digital computer:

A digital computer is a digital electronic machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of operations automatically.

What does digital mean?

A digital* computer is a universal electronic data processing* equipment which uses fixed-length sequences of binary digits* to represent elementary or primitive types of data* (e.g. whole numbers or integers, real numbers, logical or Boolean values, characters etc.). The representation of data* imposes specific coding rules and internal format upon each of the primitive and complex data types defined in a computer system.

data processing; data; information; digital; digit; data type(s); data representation


Some examples of the coding rules and internal format of a few elementary data types:

Complex data types, e.g. strings, texts, long texts (cf. the "memo" field type, MS Access), arrays, database records etc., and various types of digital media (such as animations, digital images, sounds, videos etc.) also use binary encoding but the length and the number of the sequences of bits identifying elementary data units can be extremely diverse. For example, in a digital audio CD an elementary data unit can be 16 bits long (identifying the sound intensity at a given moment in one stereo channel), and the number of elementary data units depends on the actual length of the digitized sound.

Boda István, 2023.