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A digital computer bases its whole operation on the ability to determine if a switch (sometimes called a gate), is either open or closed. As this type of computer can only recognized two states, its microcircuits are either on or off, while in the case of letters and numbers only O’s and 1’s are used (e.g. the letter “a” would be represented to the PC as something similar to “00110101).

It would appear from the above that the digital computer performs a relatively simple task, So what makes it so special? There are 2 things that makes a computer special, the first is the speed at which a computer performs this simple task and the second is the amount (volume) of data the computer handles at any one time.

A computer’s speed called “clock speed” is measured in millions of cycles per second (megahertz or MHZ), which means that a computer with a clock speed of 66 MHz, for example an 80486DX 66MHz, is capable of executing 66 million operations each second. As mentioned above, the amount of data computer handles during each cycle also makes it special. A computer performs checks on groups of switches, increasing the number of operations it can recognize in each cycle, which means a computer checking two switches at one time, can execute one of four instructions at each cycles.

Source/Further Reading: NOUN - http://www.nou.edu.ng/uploads/NOUN_OCL/pdf/SST/CIT%20101.pdf

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