A general purpose machine is also referred to as a general purpose computer. It is a type of computer that follows instructions. This means that almost all computer you encounter to do work or surf the internet is a general purpose machine. The other kind of computer is one that does more specialized work, such as a calculator.
General purpose machines (computers) can be programmed to perform various functions. This is contrasted with embedded systems, which have user interfaces for a basic function(s), like DVD players, cell phones, etc. General purpose machines can perform series of functions without step-by-step human inputs or instructions (like running programs to sort data, or installing software to perform various functions).
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