In 1970 the fourth-generation computers emerged. These machines were built with chips that
utilized LSI (large-scale integration). The MITS, Inc., Altair computer was the first
commercially successful microcomputer. Then, in 1976 Apple built its first computer. In 1979,
the VisiCalc spreadsheet program was introduced. This product was originally written to run
Apple II computers. Together, VisiCalc and Apple II computers became rapidly successful in the
In 1980, Microsoft developed MS-DOS, and IBM announced the soon-to-be personal computer.
The IBM personal computer (PC) was introduced in 1981. The IBM PC quickly garnered the
largest share of the personal computer market and became the personal computer most often used
in business. The Lotus 1-2-3 integrated software package was introduced in 1983. It combined
spreadsheet, graphics, and database programs in one package. Microprocessors utilizing the
powerful Intel 80386 chip were introduced in 1987. These machines can handle processing that
previously only large systems could perform.
Technology has rapidly progressed. The computer industry will continue to evolve as improved
technology and innovation lead to a variety of new computer applications. You can now hold in
the palm of your hand a computer that would have filled a room 50 years ago.
3. Impact of Computers. Computers affect our lives every day: in businesses, schools, and
government offices. If you buy groceries at a supermarket, use an automatic teller machine, or
place a long-distance call, you are using a computer. In recent years, the microcomputer or
personal computer has had an increasing impact on our lives. Both at home and at work, these
desktop computer systems help us to do our work faster, more accurately, and, in some cases, in
ways that previously would not have been possible. Many people now believe that knowing how
to use a computer is "as important as reading and writing" and a basic skill necessary to function
effectively in today's society. Given the increasing use and availability of computer systems,
such knowledge will continue to be an important, if not essential, skill in the future.
4. Computing Basics. Just as you had to learn to operate a car and learn "the rules of the road,"
you must know a few basic "rules" of computers to use one effectively. The very first basic
understanding is that a computer is an electronic device, operating under the control of
instructions stored in its own memory unit, that can accept data (input), process data
arithmetically and logically, produce output from the processing, and store the results for future
use. In simple terms, a computer is nothing more than a machine for you to use. It does not take a
degree in computer science to operate a computer. Anyone can become a computer "expert" with
knowledge, patience, and practice. To help you understand computers further, we will break a
computer system down and take a look at the four major categories of computers and their
components. Let us begin with the four major categories of computers.
a. Computers are generally classified according to their size, speed, processing
capabilities, and price. Because of rapid changes in technology, firm definitions of these
categories do not exist. Even though they are not firmly defined, the categories are frequently
referred to and should be generally understood. The four major categories of computers include
illustrated in Figures 1 through 4.