In a textbook, they said that computers are versatile. I thought they were talking of the different sectors of business where computers are used. But they explained that computers can do different tasks simultaneously.

  • You don't mention what kind of textbook it is, and you don't cite the actual text, so it's possible that you misinterpreted or took it out of context. However, if it was something like an English textbook, an example like this likely was not written by a computer expert. The author could have known just enough about computers to be dangerous. The technical precision of the text might have been unimportant to the English issue, just a poorly chosen example. – fixer1234 Jun 17 '17 at 19:09
  • @fixer1234 Actually the school themselves printed and published the book and is in local use for 6th grade students. – Reeshabh Ranjan Jun 18 '17 at 16:04

versatile means the ability to do many things; multitasking means doing several things at once. Both terms are appropriate in describing the capabilities of current computers.

See Merriam-Webster:

Definition of versatile (adj.)

1 : embracing a variety of subjects, fields, or skills; also : turning with ease from one thing to another

2 : having many uses or applications. EXAMPLE: versatile building material

Definition of multitasking (noun)

1 : the concurrent performance of several jobs by a computer

2 : the performance of multiple tasks at one time. EXAMPLE: The job requires a person who is good at multitasking


A "versatile" computer wouldn't necessarily be able to do many different things at the same time. It would be able to do many different things, but possibly only one after the other.

A "multitasking" computer could do many things at the same time, but possibly not different things. You could imagine a computer that controls all traffic lights in a country simultaneously but can't do anything else; that computer would be very good at multitasking but have not one bit of versatility.

  • Agree. Multitasking goes to efficiency. The ability to multitask could potentially make it more versatile if that requirement is relevant, but versatile is the wrong word if that's all it means in the citation. It's possible that the excerpt is being taken out of context and the author was talking about two different aspects that are mentioned in close proximity in the text. – fixer1234 Jun 17 '17 at 19:00
  • Curious that "versatile" starts as applied to human and shifts to computers, whereas "multitasking" starts with computers and shifts to humans. Ngrams suggests that the latter starts as a term in the mid-60s, and really takes off about 1970. Would that fit with when it becomes possible/common on the machines? Or does the term pre-date the actual implementation? – Robin Hamilton Jun 17 '17 at 21:21

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