I'm attempting to get my head around what fundamentally a computer is, both conceptually and physically. Any help would be appreciated.
The book begins:
"Every digital device--be it a personal computer, a cellular telephone, or a network router--is based on a set of chips designed to store and process information."
Okay, what's a chip? What's information, and how would a chip, whatever it is, store this information? And what does it mean to "process" information?
The book continues providing some answer to the first question: "Although these chips come in different shapes and forms, they are all made from the same building blocks: Elementary logic gates." Alright, so a chip is a set of logic gates; so what's a logic gate? I also happen to have "Ones and Zeros: Understanding Boolean Algebra, Digital Circuits, and the Logic of Sets", and after consulting it, I found the following statement: "The devices that electronically emulate Boolean functions are microscopically tiny and are called logic gates rather than functions because, from an engineering perspective, the electrical signals representing 0 and 1 pass through them as they would through a gate." If that sounds in the neighborhood of correct, some elaboration on this point would be useful to me.
I ask that as someone who has a background in logic (which I mention so you don't have to explain related concepts I already understand; trying to save everyone time :-) ). I understand what an argument is (a set of premises with a conclusion), I understand the difference between a deductive and inductive argument, how to evaluate whether an argument is sound/cogent or not, what truth value is, what a truth table is, the distinction between a proposition and the language used to communicate it, and so on. However, I have never seen "logic gate" outside the context of a computer. And ironically, my textbook on logic (i.e. "A Concise Introduction to Logic" by Hurley) makes no mention of logic gates (at least not in the 8th edition which I have). It isn't intuitive what a logic gate is exactly.
I understand computers utilize binary to represent deductive logic. Are logic gates the physical entity which represents a binary function? If so, how do they do this? How physically does a computer represent binary/logic? I've read something about changing voltage, electrical signals, or whatever, but it's all rather vague and undeveloped. And how does all of this relate to a transistor? It would be useful to me to understand these most basic concepts and physical entities thoroughly.
I did attempt to read further through chapter one, but unfortunately it's just not coming together for me. I'd like to see the conceptual foundation laid out thoroughly and very simply so even a child could understand it. Beginning from language most anyone would understand and building the vocabulary of the specialty from there while elucidating the conceptual framework--these would be very useful.