What Are Computers, Really?

If you had to explain a computer to a time traveler from the 1800's, what would you tell them? It's interesting to ponder; telling them it's "a typewriter with a TV screen" might sound tempting, but there were no TVs and typewriters were only introduced in the 1860's. The hardware part of a computer is so foreign to people from that era (and indeed to many of us today), that it might be easier to try to give a sense of what a computer can do, rather than what it is. It's a tool, but unlike any tool they might conceive of. It's a camera, a canvass on which to draw or paint, a musical instrument (in fact, many instruments), an abacus, a slide rule, a map and compass, a theater, an opera house, a museum, a library, a meeting place, a school, and so on. Such a fantastic device, and yet it can be made so small as to fit into a purse or jacket pocket - and it does not cost a king's ransom.

How would you describe a computer to the gentlemen below?
And what, pray tell, is this "Eye-pad" of which you speak?

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