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          The rapidly advancing field of electronics led to construc­tion of the first general-purpose electronic computer in 1946 at the University of Pennsylvania. It was Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer or ENIAC, the device contained 18,000 vacuum tubes and had a speed of several hundred mul­tiplications per minute. Its program was wired into the pro­cessor and had to be manually altered.

          Later transistors appeared. The use of the transistor in computers began in the late 1950s. It marked the advent of smaller, faster elements than it was possible to create with the use of vacuum-tube machines. Because transistors use less power and have a much longer life, computers alone were im­proved a lot. They were called second-generation computers. Components became smaller and the system became less ex­pensive to build.

        Modern digital computers are all conceptually similar, re­gardless of size and shape. Nevertheless, they can be divided into several categories on the basis of cost and performance. The first one is the personal computer or microcomputer, a relatively low-cost machine, usually of desk-top size. Some­times they are called laptops. They are small enough to fit in a briefcase. The second is the workstation, a microcomputer with enhanced graphics and communications capabilities that make it especially useful for office work. And the server computers, a large expensive machine with the capability of serving the needs of major business enterprises, government departments, scientific research establishments. The largest and fastest of these are called supercomputers.

          A digital computer is not actually a single machine, in the sense that most people think of computers. Instead it is a sys­tem composed of five distinct elements: a central processing unit, input devices, memory storage devices, output devices and a communications network, called a «bus» that links all the elements of the system and connects the system itself to the external world.

         Talking about a central processing unit or the heart of com­puter, I would like to add that there were several generations of microprocessors. The first generation was represented by pro­cessing unit Intel 8086. The second generation central process­ing unit was represented by processing unit Intel 80286, used in IBM PC AT 286. In the end of 80s such computer costs about 25-30 000 rubles in the former USSR. The third generation is represented by Intel 80386, used in IBM PC AT 386. The micro­processors of the fourth generation were used in computers IBM PC AT 486. There are also central processing units of the fifth generation, used in Intel Pentium 60 and Intel Pentium 66, cen­tral processing units of the sixth generation, used in comput­ers Intel Pentium 75, 90, 100 and 133. Few years ago appeared central processing units of seventh and eighth generations.

         Computer speeds are measured in gigahertz today. Recent­ly, an optical central processing unit has been invented, which is capable of executing trillions discrete operations per sec­ond or it is as fast as the speed of light.

          So, we are at the ‘threshold of new computer era, when ar­tificial intelligence could be invented. There are no questions with «if», the only question is «when». And time will show us either computers become our best friends or our evil enemies as it is shown in some movies.






1. When was the first general-purpose electronic computer constructed?

2. When did the use of transistor in computers begin?

3. What is laptop?

4. What is a server computer?

5. What is supercomputer?

6. How many elements can be distinguished in a computer?





rapidly — быстро

general-purpose — универсальный, многоцелевой

device — прибор, устройство

vacuum tube — вакуумная трубка

several — несколько

multiplication — умножение

to wire into — зд.записанана

manually — вручную

to alter — изменять, менять

transistor — транзистор

to create — создавать

to improve — улучшать, совершенствовать

expensive — дорогой, дорогостоящий

to build (past built, p.p. built) — построить

digital — цифровой

conceptually — концептуально

similar — похожий, подобный

regardless — невзирая на

nevertheless — тем не менее, однако

desk-top — десктоп, компьютер настольного размера

laptop—  лептоп

to fit — подходить

briefcase — портфель, чемоданчик

work station — рабочая станция

to enhance — улучшить, увеличивать

capability — способность

server — сервер

enterprise — предприятие

research establishment — исследовательское учреждение

 to be composed of — состоять из  

central processing unit — центральное вычислительное устройство

distinct — разный, различный

input device — устройство ввода информации

memory storage device — устройство хранения инфор­мации

output device — устройство вывода информации

communication network — система коммуникаций

bus — зд. шина

to link — соединять

external — внешний

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