Research ComputerThe research computer serves one simple purpose. It allows you to view the technology tree as you understand it. You start with a few technologies, such as knowledge of the new metals, basic understanding of the makeup of materials, and basic circuity. The computer gives you insight into how the technologies you know may be combined together, with a hint towards what you're working towards. Thus you can always see what is available for you to head towards next.
Once a technology is discovered, it will give recipe patterns for all of the items associated with this particular technology. It may also give additional information about the technology as a whole.
Research ConsoleThis is where the research actually happens. Placing the materials from a discovered Technology into the console, you can begin the process of analyzing these materials. This takes time, but nothing else. It will continue even if you walk away from the console. Once this process is done, you receive a data card that can be used to change the corresponding Technology from discovered to research.
Additionally, certain technologies may generate items as part of the discovery process. This is often the case when the technology research items correspond to a recipe, or portion of one. By creating this object, you discover additional uses, and thus, technologies.