From the second edition (1989):
(kəmˈpjuːtə(r)) Also -or. [f. compute v. + -er1.]
1. One who computes; a calculator, reckoner; spec. a person employed to make calculations in an observatory, in surveying, etc.
1646 Sir T. Browne Pseud. Ep. vi. vi. 289 The Calenders of these computers. 1704 Swift T. Tub vii, A very skilful computer. 1744 Walpole Lett. H. Mann 18 June, Told by some nice computors of national glory. 1855 Brewster Newton II. xviii. 162 To pay the expenses of a computer for reducing his observations.
2. a. A calculating-machine; esp. an automatic electronic device for performing mathematical or logical operations; freq. with defining word prefixed, as analogue, digital, electronic computer (see these words).
1897 Engineering 22 Jan. 104/2 This was‥a computer made by Mr. W. Cox. He described it as of the nature of a circular slide rule. 1915 Chambers's Jrnl. July 478/1 By means of this computer the task is performed mechanically and almost instantaneously. 1941 Nature 14 June 753/2 The telescope drive is of an elaborate nature; the effects of changing refraction, of differential flexure and of errors in the gears are automatically allowed for by a system of ‘computers’. 1944 Times 8 July 2/2 The Mark XIV consists of‥a rectangular box called the computor, which might be described as the brains of the machine. 1946 Jrnl. Appl. Physics XVII. 262 (heading) A computer for solving linear simultaneous equations. 1946 [see electronic a. 3]. 1947 [see digital a. 4]. 1957 Technology Mar. 9/1 The advent of the electronic digital computer, with its ability to make simple logical decisions, now permits a further step forward by supplementing the brain power required to supervise the control of manufacturing processes. 1957 Ibid. July 167/3 At present a computer can read, remember, do arithmetic, make elementary decisions and print its answers. 1958 Listener 18 Sept. 413/2 Much work was done‥trying to ‘programme’ a computer to play chess. 1963 Publishers' Weekly 5 Aug. 80/1 Computers are being used to speed up the production of justified tape for the operation of typesetting machines. 1964 F. L. Westwater Electronic Computers i. 1 The popular idea of a computer as an electronic ‘brain’ is not entirely apt. Basically, a computer is merely a calculating machine,‥with the difference that the speed of calculation has been enormously increased.
b. attrib. and Comb.
1957 Economist 30 Nov. 807/2 Computer-control methods that have already been applied to certain machine tool operations. 1957 I. Asimov Earth is Room Enough (1960) 11 The decisions on priority are computer-processed. I could in no way alter those conditions arbitrarily. 1961 Times 21 July 3/1 Senior Computer Programmers. 1962 Science Survey XX. 322 Functional diagram of computer-controlled milling machine. 1964 Discovery Oct. 56/2 Such projects form a part of the developing field of computer-aided design. 1964 R. D. Hopper in I. L. Horowitz New Sociol. 322 The possibilities of ‥computer-based thinking. 1964 A. Wykes Gambling xi. 259 He must have a computer-like ability to remember all the cards. 1965 Math. in Biol. & Med. (Med. Res. Council) p. viii, For some time past commerce and industry have been making increasing use of computer-based automatic data processing systems. Ibid. 38 It may well be that the computer-assisted treatment will replace the radical operation of temporal lobectomy. Ibid. 166 The function of a computer-generated sine wave. 1966 Performing Right Oct. 10/1 A veteran computer operator. 1968 Computers & Humanities II. 145 The computer-generated concordance is probably the earliest-developed‥and most useful application of electronic data processing to literary texts. 1969 Bessinger & Smith Concordance to Beowulf p. xxiii, We considered writing a computer program to ‘translate’ the text, word by word, into the hyphenated form. 1970 Brit. Printer Feb. 27/1 One of the unnerving things about computer-assisted typesetting is the pace at which developments take place. 1970 Computers & Humanities IV. 340 Umlauts‥and upper case letters are coded for proper computer typesetting.
3. Special Comb.: computer-aided a., performed with the aid of a computer; esp. involving one as an integral part of an operation previously performed without one; computer-literate a., educated or skilled in the use of computers; also computer literacy.
1962 J. C. R. Licklider in J. E. Coulson Programmed Learning ii. 217 (heading) Preliminary experiments in *computer-aided teaching. 1963 AFIPS Conf. Proc. XXIII. 305/1 A computer-aided design system for general use. 1967 Cox & Grose Organiz. Bibliogr. Rec. by Computer v. 114 An experimental vehicle‥for on-line computer-aided editing and reformatting of MARC records to adapt the cataloging data for local library use. 1971 C. R. W. W. Wright in B. de Ferranti Living with Computer 24 The initial reaction when computer-aided learning is discussed is to imagine vast systems using large and expensive computers. 1984 E. P. DeGarmo et al. Materials & Processes in Manuf. (ed. 6) i. 9 It is a natural for the efficient implementation of computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) techniques. 1970 R. W. Brightman Computer & Junior College 6 Course work designed to develop *computer literacy — a term describing the general understanding of computers and what they do — is highly recommended. 1985 Personal Computer World Feb. 40 (Advt.), You'll catch it on TV, the star of a series of computer literacy programmes. 1976 Resources in Educ. May 139/1 Benefits of using computers to improve instruction, to provide learner control, and to develop a *computer-literate society are discussed. 1985 Listener 28 Feb. 35/1 Without a clear, logical instruction manual, a computer is wholly useless to someone who is not already computer-literate.