The widespread use of computers has revolutionized many aspects of labor and business. In only a few generations, the computer has gone from being a mysterious tool accessible to a privileged few to a common tool used by people at all levels of labor in almost every industry.
Without addressing the specifics of the technology, computers store information. Over the last thousand years or so, most businesses stored information in the form of written documents. One of the revolutionary aspects of computers is the quantity of information they are capable of storing. A document containing as much information as this article could take up about 16 kilobytes of data on a computer hard drive. But, most computers used in 2010 contain at least several gigabytes. In other words, you could save more than 16,000 articles like this on one computer of below-average cost.
Computers operate via the interaction of complex arithmetic algorithms. As the name "computer" indicates, they perform mathematically. Thus, they are well-suited to any task requiring mathematic operations. Even modest computers of the decade from 2000 to 2010 perform millions of computations per second. Mathematicians, engineers, scientists, actuaries and any other professional working with numbers will find productivity increased exponentially through computers.
The use of email, Internet, message boards and social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn have been instrumental in keeping workers in touch both within companies and between different companies. Critics cite the proliferation of electronic chain letters, jokes and pranks as being detrimental to productivity. But, while workers concentrate on work-related tasks, the advantages in the speed and reliability of communication benefits every industry.
The Internet as we now know it evolved and grew from ARPA net, the Advanced Research Project Agency Network. As the scientists at research sites across the United States saw how useful the communication network became, they and others like them encouraged the development of a larger system accessible to the general public. Now, anyone with an Internet connection can research virtually any topic imaginable. This benefits all industries, but writers, journalists, travel agents, politicians and lawyers probably get some of the most use out of it.
Bored programmers and other computer workers designed the first computer games to entertain themselves. But, as computers and Internet access became less expensive and more common, the practice became a much larger and well-funded industry. Now, companies like Blizzard Entertainment and games like World of Warcraft constitute a huge part of the entertainment industry. As of 2009, more than 11 million people around the world played World of Warcraft. Activision's hit, Modern Warfare 2, has surpassed $1 billion in revenue. Nintendo has produced several platforms and hundreds of games in the past 20 years. While people do not (usually) play these games at work, all of these products are developed on computers by large staffs of designers, programmers, artists, musicians, database administrators and even play-testers.