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20 Common Uses of Computers

Alfred is a long-time teacher and computer enthusiast who works with and troubleshoots a wide range of computing devices.

The uses of computers today are as diverse as the forms of computers that exist in the market. From supercomputers to embedded miniature devices, computers can be used to accomplish complex chores like sending man to the outer space or indulging in simple pastimes like taking photos.

A computer can be used to access internet services via a modem and for file transfer

A computer can be used to access internet services via a modem and for file transfer

In order to grasp the full extent of computer use, it is important to first appreciate the functions of computers, vis-à-vis, the purpose for which they were made in the first place. Computers came into our lives largely because of four major functions: data gathering, processing, storage and information dissemination, which can be broken down into limitless computer uses.

The four functions, and processing, in particular, justified computer use in the past decades. In the 21st Century, and with the right computer hardware, software, and humanware, everything is now possible, from word processing to virtualization.

1. Arithmetic Data Processing

Arithmetic data processing, most commonly referred to as data processing is used to mean manipulation and conversion of mathematical data into useful information via output devices. Data processing however, is meant to cover all kinds of processing done by the computer, be it word processing, desktop publishing or media production.

In most cases though, data processing is used to refer to arithmetic manipulation of raw data for analyses, science and commerce. This probably stems from the initial concepts of computing where humans were obsessed by the need to manipulate arithmetic data more than anything else.

Besides, nothing suited scientists and philosophers more than constructing machines they could use to calculate complex tasks like reading weather behavior and sending man to the moon surface, starting in the 20th Century.

This analysis was created using MS Excel

This analysis was created using MS Excel

Data processing hardware and software can be used to measure both quantitative and qualitative data in the following and other areas:

  • Processing of payroll using software like QuickBooks, Simple X Payroll and ADP Payroll.
  • Record management using Sage, MS Access and TurboCASH.
  • GIS and remote sensing using Maptitude, ArcGIS and Geosoft.
  • Sales management using Tactile CRM, Base and Sage.
  • Data analysis processing in research using SPSS, Statisca and Analytica.
  • Tax preparation processing using Turbo Tax, Drake Software and TacACT.
  • Creating billing and invoicing using Replicon TimeBill, Zoho, Billbooks.
  • Demographic analysis of population using Population Analysis System, NoreMark and Surviv.

2. Word Processing

Word processing is actually data processing only that it is limited to manipulation of alphanumeric text and how this text appears on the page. For the most part, Word processing involves manipulation of text related file types like:

  • Letters
  • Journals
  • Lyrics
  • poetry
  • Reports
  • Manuscripts
  • Articles
  • Resumes

Most personal computers in homes today are used to accomplish these basic computing tasks.

Word processing is done using software packages categorized under word processors. Common word processors are listed below:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Google Docs (online)
  • Apple Pages
  • Kingsoft Office Writer
  • Open Office Writer
  • LibreOffice Writer
MS Word can be used to type letters, write memos and create many kinds of text related files

MS Word can be used to type letters, write memos and create many kinds of text related files

3. Desktop Publishing

Desktop publishing (DTP) is all about creating high quality and artistic documents based on page layout and vector graphics in target applications. These applications put emphasis on structure and display of document layout when compared to word processors which focus on text production.

Designers of desktop publishing applications use texts and vector drawings, and where necessary bitmap images for different effects. The processed documents can then get printed on paper and other surfaces, published online and shared in PDF file format.

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Examples of DTP documents aimed for printing include:

  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Book covers
  • Brochures
  • Billboards
  • Fliers
  • Posters
  • Logos
  • Certificates
  • Seasons, business cards etc
  • Calendars
  • Embroidery
MS Publisher can be used for basic desktop publishing

MS Publisher can be used for basic desktop publishing

In order to produce the above documents, you will need one of the following or other desktop publishing applications:

  • Adobe illustrator
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Corel Draw
  • Microsoft Publisher
  • Adobe PageMaker
  • InPage

4. Photo Editing

Photo editing is a popular form of image manipulation with the purpose of enhancing photo quality, fixing photographic errors and pranking people. Usually, editing of images is meant to be applied to photos that have been captured using digital cameras, but other types of non-digital images i.e. printed photos and illustrations can be scanned digitally and edited using computer software.

The art of photo editing became common place in the 90s following the release of Adobe Photoshop in 1987. Before then, editing of non-digital images was done manually by merging them or using brushes, ink and paint.

Popular Photographic manipulations involve the following changes to photographs:

  • Cropping
  • Application of contrast and brightness
  • Application of special effects
  • Removal of red eye
  • Sharpening
  • Color adjustment
Adobe Photoshop can be used to crop and apply other effects to photographs

Adobe Photoshop can be used to crop and apply other effects to photographs

All the above effects can be done by retouching and airbrushing select images using chosen computer applications.

There are many applications that can be used to edit photos. Below are some of them:

  • Corel PaintShop
  • Serif Affinity Photo
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements
  • Triscape FxFoto
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Filterra Phot Editor app

5. Communication

The dawn of computers and Internet transformed communication way beyond what humanity thought was possible. The shelving of traditional drums, telegraph and shortwave radio paved way for Internet, which in turn has made a global village out of our world.

Internet has also enabled information to pass from point A to B and from one person to another, faster and securely.

The evolution in computer technology has ensured that communication in the following areas is happening and will continue to happen seamlessly:

  • Voice communication through cell phone and VOIP protocols.
  • SMS and internet messaging through cell phones, WhatsApp and Messenger.
  • Video communication is possible using MS Skype, Google Hangout and chat platforms.
  • Audiovisual (AV) presentations in worship centers, political rallies, theaters, TV segments, stage performance, classroom presentations etc.
  • Official and informal mail correspondence using email services like Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo.
  • Photo and video sharing through the cloud, Instagram, Facebook and email based protocols.
  • Social networking services to over a billion enthusiasts, families and friends through platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Facebook unites friends from around the world

Facebook unites friends from around the world

6. Education

Computers and peripherals have become the mainstream tools through which knowledge is delivered to the young and old alike. Even better (or worrying!) children are learning to grow up with computing devices, and gone are days when computer lessons were treated only as modules.

Children now doodle or play the keyboard on the tablet rather than scribble on paper and ground.

iPads and other tablet are used by kids to learn and do other things

iPads and other tablet are used by kids to learn and do other things

Computer use in education is as diverse as the types of computers that exist and the tasks they solve. While the bulk of computers in homes are used to accomplish word and arithmetic processing, computers in schools are used for that and much more.

Computer Aided Learning (CAL) is also used in the classroom to further interactive teaching. CAL makes use of specialized software, embedded with graphical demonstrations, which gives students the opportunity to go back and forth without having to miss a step during the learning process.

All subjects in school curriculum now benefit from the depth of CAL.

To complement use of CAL, teachers can use interactive whiteboards commonly known as smart-boards to display computer data just like on a projector screen. Only this time, instructors and teachers can manipulate whiteboards using fingers to drag and drop items and scribble on the screen. Whatever is written or copied on the smart-board can be saved in the computer for later use.

From the administrative point of view, specialized school management information system software are used to monitor school activity and student performance. Parents and guardians can view record of student performance using online version of these software.

Elsewhere, education has become an integral part of the internet, giving rise to lots of eLearning opportunities. Students now pursue college and degree courses online in what is called distance learning. It even gets better when learners and instructors in different geographical locations conduct live audiovisual conferencing to get the feeling of classroom environment. Exams too can be conducted in this kind of environment.

Computer use in the classroom

Computer use in the classroom

7. Entertainment and Leisure

One aspect of human lifestyle that benefited most from the dawn of computers is entertainment. It all started with the use of PC CDROM, disk drives and Creative Lab speakers, before graduating to Napster, iPods and Spotify.

With evolving technology, almost all kinds of entertainment can be achieved through computers.

Areas which have experienced growth in entertainment include:

  • Online and offline audio entertainment
  • Online and offline audiovisual entertainment
  • Mixing audiovisual files in parties and discotheques
  • Online and offline gaming on PCs, smartphones and game consoles
  • Photography using digital cameras, smartphones, Google glasses
  • Offline and online television
Audiovisual entertainment using computers

Audiovisual entertainment using computers

8. Computers in Sports

Different types of computers are used in sporting activities for administrative and technical reasons. If they are not used to relay live events online, they are tailored to monitor player efficiency or measure areas of improvements for sports as a whole.

Computer-based instructions and are used widely to help set nutritional and workout guidelines based on statistics analyzed from body height, girth and other measurements as modeled in the computer.

Other measurements are targeted at fitness of athletes as a result of concussions and other injuries sustained in the playing field.

Overall, computers are used:

  • To compile different statistics data about players and team performance.
  • To apportion appropriate dietary plans for players.
  • To study and design equipment for safety and efficiency reasons e.g. boots and helmets.
  • Embedded in training wear to monitor speed and temp during training e.g. smart clothes and shoes.· By scouts to assess
  • By scouts to assess proficiency of new players.
  • In soccer to identify legit goals in controversial circumstances i.e. goal line technology.
  • In news broadcast and analysis of popular games i.e. Barclays Premier League.

9. Software Development

Besides human ware, computer software is a very crucial part in computer ecosystem. Software is what drives computer hardware and the very reason for technological innovations that drive the universe today.

In order to ensure this ecosystem continues to thrive, new software need to be made and software programmers need to continue doing their work. Much of the software abound today would not have been possible were it not for the effort of software programmers or developers.

Software programming is mainly concerned with the coding stages in software development. Of course complete software programming involves research, planning, designing and implementation stages, under the umbrella of software engineering. Software engineering is a broad design framework much like any other professional engineering works.

The real process of creating software is called coding, where programmers use specialized programing languages to make, test, debug and implement new usable applications. The instructions written by a programmer is called source code.

There are different types of software programming depending on the programmer, platform and the client.

For example, different software can be implemented to run in different platforms listed below:

  • Desktop computers
  • Mobiles
  • Embedded systems
  • Operating systems
  • Browsers
  • Etc.

Below are a few programming languages:

  • C and C++ Languages, used for building operating systems, application software, Mozilla Firefox, Adobe software, video games etc.
  • Objective-C used mainly by Apple to create Mac OS X and IOS, and IOS apps.
  • C# is mainly used by Microsoft to develop software for Microsoft and Windows.
  • Python used for app development.

10. Web Development

Web design is the art of creating, publishing and maintaining websites to the internet. When ready to go live, websites are hosted online using webhosting companies. A website is presented visually across the internet from where online visitors can access them.

Once complete, websites are accessible through web browsers like Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge, which are optimized both for desktop and mobile.

Web designers and applications take into account appropriate layout, text, multimedia, color and graphics, in order to make their sites visually appealing, fast to open and easy to navigate through.

Websites can be created using various web programming languages and WYSIWYG editing software.

Below are some of the popular ones:

  • Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)
  • JavaScript
  • Java
  • Python
  • Hypertext Processor (PHP)

Below are some of the popular editing software:

  • Weebly
  • Xara
  • Dreamweaver
  • Web Studio
  • Notepad++

Sample Notepad++ code.

When the Notepad++ file above is saved with .html extension, it can be launched in any browser and will display as below:


11. 3D Modelling and Animation

Computers are used to create 3D modeling and 3D animation for many purposes. To start with, the end result of 3D modeling is 3D models which can as well be transformed to 3D animation by use of specialized software.

Overall, the two are designed to create visually appealing models for many purposes.

-3D Modeling

3D modelling is the creation of three dimensional graphical objects by manipulating their height, width and depth. A 3D model is the product derived from such creation.

3D modeling is done using specialized software and is useful in many fields:

  • Architects use it to create photorealistic models of virtual products.
  • Publishers can turn 2D images to more realistic 3D pictures.
  • 3D modeling is used in animation by putting life in 3D models.

-3D Animation

3D animation is the computer design field which is concerned with animating objects that have been created in 3 dimensional models. Such 3D models can be manipulated to move and act like real life objects.

Areas that benefit from 3D computer animation include:

  • Animation films e.g. Toy Story, Ice Age and Smurfs.
  • Computer games e.g. Need for Speed, Call of Duty and Tomb Raider.

Besides animation in movies and game industry, 3D animation is used in most TV commercials, geology, science and in virtual reality.

Below are sample 3D modeling and animation applications:

  • 3D Studio Max
  • Maya
  • Houdini
  • Blender 3D
  • Cinema 4D
  • iClone

12. Computer Aided Vector Design

Computer aided design (CAD) is a field in computing where architects, artists, engineers and enthusiasts create vector based 3 dimensional (3D) and 2 dimensional (2D) technical models (shapes) that can be used for anything from industrial design to engineering calculations.

Unlike 3D and 2D designs in other fields, vector based CAD creations are meant to be scale-accurate both in their virtual state as in the real world. A suspension bridge to be created in real life should be modeled accurately in a CAD application for it to be deemed worthwhile for construction.

Usually, the process in creating CAD models start with constructing basic shapes in what is called wire-frames, and then made complete by adding colors and gradients in what is called texture mapping. Polygons, spheres, prisms, cylinders, curves and ovals are also exclusively used in most 3D designs.

CAD software then allows the designer to view his final product like it should appear in real life by rotating it in angles.

Sample 3D model and a rendered model

Sample 3D model and a rendered model

CAD is used under the umbrella of digital product development (DPD) in collaboration or independent of design modules like computer-aided engineering (CAE), computer aided manufacturing (CAM), motion simulation and product data management (PDM)

Common products that can be created using CAD include:

  • Architectural designs
  • Auto products
  • Mechanical designs
  • Aerospace engineering
  • Concept designs
  • Interior designs
  • Military hardware

Computer aided design for construction plans and interior designs can be done using these applications:

  • AutoCAD (CAD)
  • SkyCiv Structural 3D
  • ArchiCAD
  • Solidworks (CAD and CAE)
  • Sketchup

13. Music Production

Computers became a very important tool in music production starting in the 80s when they were used to digitally master and control musical instruments via the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI).

Songs were externally played, recorded and stored in the computer for further mastering and sequencing.

A PC sound card and MIDI cables

A PC sound card and MIDI cables

Since then, musical creation has moved on, now with the development of a whole range of applications and hardware capabilities which can record multi tracks right inside the computer. These applications and hardware usually referred to as Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) are embedded with preset sample sounds and can be manipulated to create limitless drum beats, guitar sounds and vocal snippets.

Sample computer software that are used for music production include:

  • Fruity Loops Studio
  • Ableton Live
  • Apple Logic Pro
  • GarageBand
  • Cakewalk
  • Pro Tools

14. Video Editing

Video editing is all about manipulation of motion video by rearranging and adding special effects in order to produce meaningful audiovisual files.

Technically, video editing involves segment trimming, clip sequencing, adding transitions, special effects and sequencing related audio parts.

Video editing is useful in different fields and for different purposes. Beneficiary industries include television, commercials, films, music and other multimedia production industries.