added by archaeologs Machines which can be programmed to calculate and compare, store and manipulate information. They consist of four main components: (1) a central processing unit, in which program instructions are interpreted and calculations carried out; (2) storage units, where information may be held temporarily or permanently; (3) input facilities, into which are fed instructions and information; (4) output units, from which the results can be obtained. Computers are controlled by a program called the operating system. Instructions are input as a series of codes and key words that the system interprets and causes the computer to obey. Additional programs can be written in a number of international ‘high level’ languages, which th,e system converts to a code that the computer can ‘understand’. Such programs may then be run by issuing the appropriate commands to the operating system. Programs have been written to carry out, for example, statistical calculations, multivariate Computers may be of any size, from the vast ‘mainframe’ machines, to microprocessors and small programmable calculators. Mainframe computers are normally shared between a large number of activities. Microprocessors are so cheap that they can be dedicated to one user or one operation. Archaeology already uses computers widely. Microprocessors have started to make their appearances as finds- and site-recording systems, controllers of measuring devices etc.
The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983