NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility (2004)

computer – a general purpose device that can be programmed to carry out a finite set of arithmetic or logical operations. Since a sequence of operations can be readily changed, the computer can solve more than one kind of problem.

Conventionally, a computer consists of at least one processing element, typically a central processing unit (CPU) and some form of memory. The processing element carries out arithmetic and logic operations, and a sequencing and control unit that can change the order of operations based on stored information. Peripheral devices allow information to be retrieved from an external source, and the result of operations saved and retrieved.


  • people
  • machines
  • programming – the process of writing, testing, debugging/troubleshooting, and maintaining the source code of computer programs. This source code is written in a programming language. The code may be a modification of an existing source or something completely new. The purpose of programming is to create a program that exhibits a certain desired behaviour (customization). The process of writing source code requires expertise in many different subjects, including knowledge of the application domain, specialized algorithms and formal logic.


  • analog
  • digital
  • supercomputer
  • personal

Analog computers

  • many of the first practical nonhuman computers were analog machines
  • mechanical Differential Analyzer built by Vannevar Bush in 1931
  • remained popular into the 1970s, especially for simulations (they were used to drive flight simulators for the X-15 rocket plane and early spacecraft)

Meet the people in Computer Engineering

  • Charles Babbage – In 1837, was the first to conceptualize and design a fully programmable mechanical computer, his analytical engine. Limited finances and Babbage’s inability to resist tinkering with the design meant that the device was never completed—nevertheless his son, Henry Babbage, completed a simplified version of the analytical engine’s computing unit (the mill) in 1888. He gave a successful demonstration of its use in computing tables in 1906.
  • Ada Lovelace corresponded with Babbage during his development of the Analytical Engine. She is credited with developing an algorithm for the Analytical Engine to calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers. She is often described as the first computer programmer.