Essay, Research Paper: Computer Engineering

Computers

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Computer technology has advanced dramatically over the past ten years.
Technology has advanced from computers the size of a room that can only perform
one particular task, to personal computers (PC’s) that will fit on a desk and
perform multiple tasks. Understanding computers and their programs and being
able to apply that knowledge is very important in today’s workplace.
Engineering is a field that requires an extensive background in computer
technology. Future engineers will benefit dramatically from having a strong
background in computer technology. In order to understand why computers are
important, we have to understand what a computer is and what it does. A computer
is a device capable of performing a series of calculations or logical operations
without human intervention. The computer is characterized by the number and
complexity of operations it can perform and by its ability to process, store,
and retrieve data (“Computers” 1). The development of computers began in the
19th century by British mathematician Charles Babbage (Eadie 3). Babbage
designed, but did not build, a mechanical digital device capable of processing
information as a modern computer does (4). In 1930 American scientist Vannevar
Bush built a mechanically operated device, called a differential analyzer (4).
It was the first general-purpose analog computer. Analog computers will be
discussed later in this paper. The first information-processing digital computer
actually built was the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, or Mark I
computer (4). Completed in 1944, this electromechanical device was designed by
American engineer Howard Aiken (5). In 1946 the Electronic Numerical Integrator
and Computer, or ENIAC, was put into operation (5). Using thousands of electron
tubes, it was the first electronic digital computer. In the late 1950s
transistors replaced electron tubes in computers, allowing a reduction in the
size and power consumption of computer components (5). In the 1960s hybrid
computers were tried that connected analog computers to digital ones. Later
integrated circuits were developed that allowed further reduction in component
size and increase in reliability. The introduction of a relatively easy to use
PC in 1981 began a period in the rapid growth of the computer industry. The
computer industry is still thriving today with the introduction of faster
processors such as the Pentium II and now the Pentium III, high tech printers,
scanners, and of course the Internet. There are two types of computers, analog
and digital. An analog computer is designed to process data in which the
variable quantities vary continuously; it translates the relationships between
the variables of a problem into analogous relationships between electrical
quantities, such as current and voltage, and solves the original problem by
solving the equivalent problem, or analog, that is set up in its electrical
circuits (Eadie 9). Because of this feature, analog computers are useful in the
simulation and evaluation of certain complex situations. Analog computers do not
play a role in engineering today, but without the introduction of analog
computers PC’s would not be what they are today. Digital computers are
referred to as PC’s. PC’s are used everyday in the workplace, at school, and
at home. Many programs can be accessed and loaded into a digital computer. Most
technical jobs, including engineering, require experience and understanding of
PC’s and the programs that are related to the field in which the PC is being
used. A digital computer is designed to process data in numerical form; its
circuits perform mathematical operations of addition, subtraction,
multiplication, and division. The numbers operated on by a digital computer are
expressed in the binary system. Binary digits, which are also known as bits, are
0 and 1, so that 0, 1, 10, 11, 100, 101, etc. correspond to 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,
etc. A series of eight bits, called a “byte”, is the basic data unit of
computers. A digital computer can store the results of its calculations for
later use, can compare the results with other data, and on the basis of such
comparisons can change the series of operations it performs (“Computers” 2).
PC’s would not be useful if it were not for the information that we enter into
them. Input to a computer can come directly from people. Human beings can
directly communicate with the computer terminals, entering instructions and data
by means of keyboards or by using a mouse and receiving the information through
a printer. Entering data into a computer can be extremely complicated for
someone who is not experienced in downloading. In engineering understanding how
to download a program is not as important as knowing how to run a program
unless, of course, you are planning a career in computer engineering. When the
necessary programs are loaded into a PC it can be used for tasks such as
computer-aided design. Computer-aided design (CAD) is used frequently in
engineering. CAD is a form of automation that helps designers prepare drawings,
specifications, and parts lists for a wide variety of products. The technology
is widely used in architectural, electronics, aeronautical, naval, and
automotive engineering and design. At first CAD programs only performed less
complicated automated drafting projects. Now they include computer simulation as
an important component. Rather than having to build “bread-board” circuit
prototypes and change components to determine effects of tolerance ranges,
engineers can use computers to simulate circuit operation (Ferris 19). As
microelectronics devices have become smaller and more complex, CAD has become an
especially important technology. The introduction of CAD’s have lowered costs
and shortened the design cycle in many industries. The understanding of CAD’s
and similar programs are a vital component to any engineering career. Other
programs that are related to engineering are ones that help create blueprints,
estimate production costs, and simulate certain situations that will help in
production. There are many different programs that correspond to each field of
engineering. In today’s society computers are taught starting in elementary
school. Computerized instruction continues all the way through high school. Now,
many engineering degrees require certain computer classes. Today’s students
are going to have an advantage over the engineers of the past. Design and
planning will become easier even though the designs may be more complex. The
advancements in technology have contributed greatly to the field of engineering.

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