Computers and Functions

The purpose of this document is to provide an increased or basic knowledge of a computer and what types of functions are necessary to be present in order for a piece of hardware to be considered a computer.

A computer is a piece or multiple pieces of hardware that have the ability to respond to a specific set of instructions in a well-defined manner, as well as, having the ability to execute a predefined set of instructions (, 2008). Computers have many different uses, but ultimately computers are a technology, which allow users to complete simple or complex tasks in a timely manner. Computers play a role in many aspects of everyday life anywhere from: banking, hospitals, transportation, energy, military, and even NASA. No matter what the use is of a computer, the basic functions of what defines a computer as a computer, the criterion is still the same.

When the question is asked if a microwave is a computer, by definition, the answer is, “no.” When comparing a computer to a microwave the initial thought would be that a microwave is a computer, however when looking at the two by definition, it is apparent that a microwave is not computer. A microwave does have a predefined set of instructions, however it does not have the ability to execute code. Many people may argue that you can program a clock on a microwave and the application used to program the clock is an application, however those are stored values, they are not predefined instructions. Your thoughts of checking your email or over-clocking your microwave in order to cook your food faster just are not going to happen. Microwaves are tools that can be used to allow a user to complete a simple task, but they fall along the lines of furniture or electronics rather than computers.

In conclusion, when comparing a computer to a microwave, they may have a lot of similarities, but they cannot be defined as a computer. Microwaves do not meet all the necessary criteria to be considered on the same computing level as a computer. Until the time that microwaves are programmed to run more complex applications and actually execute a predefined set of instructions, otherwise known as a program, microwaves can still be found in the electronics department of your nearest department store.


1. What is computer? – A Word Definition From the Webopedia Computer Dictionary. Retrieved August 3, 2008, from What is computer? – A Word Definition From the Webopedia Computer Dictionary Web site:

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