A computer is a programmablemachine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem. An important class of computer operations on some computing platforms is the accepting of input from human operators and the output of results formatted for human consumption. The interface between the computer and the human operator is known as the user interface.
Conventionally a computer consists of some form of memory, at least one element that carries out arithmetic and logic operations, and a sequencing and control unit that can change the order of operations based on the information that is stored. Peripheral devices allow information to be entered from an external source, and allow the results of operations to be sent out.
A computer's processing unit executes series of instructions that make it read, manipulate and then store data. Conditional instructions change the sequence of instructions as a function of the current state of the machine or its environment.
The first electronic digital computers were developed in the mid-20th century (1940-1945). Originally, they were the size of a large room, consuming as much power as several hundred modern personal computers (PCs). In this era mechanical analog computers were used for military applications.
Modern computers based on integrated circuits are millions to billions of times more capable than the early machines, and occupy a fraction of the space. Simple computers are small enough to fit into mobile devices, and mobile computers can be powered by small batteries. Personal computers in their various forms are icons of the Information Age and are what most people think of as "computers". However, the embedded computers found in many devices from mp3 players to fighter aircraft and from toys to industrial robots are the most numerous.