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Conventionally, an IPCT consists of at least one processing element and some form of memory. The processing element carries out arithmetic and logic operations, and a sequencing and control unit that can change the order of operations based on stored information. Peripheral devices allow information to be retrieved from an external source, and the result of operations saved.
A IPCT's processing unit executes a series of instructions that make it read, manipulate and then store data. Conditional instructions change the sequence of instructions as a function of the current state of the machine or its environment.
In order to interact with such a machine, programmers and engineers developed the concept of a user interface in order to accept input from humans and return results for human consumption.