For an explanation, see the main splats page
SPLATS about computing and information
- The Antikythera mechanism was a very early mechanical computer of some sort, probably designed as a device to help predict the positions of heavenly bodies.
- 1645 Blaise Pascal completed his 5-digit 'Pascaline', a machine that could add. While it was fairly simple, it was still one of the first calculating machines.
- In 1673 Gottfried Leibniz invented a machine, based on Blaise Pascal's, but this one could also multiply and divide. In the same year, he invented his calculus.
- In a letter written to the French Academy of Sciences in 1701 Gottfried Leibniz outlined and described the binary (base 2) system used by all modern computers.
- The first form of automatic control was a governor on a steam engine, which generated feedback and so maintained the engine's speed at a constant rate.
- In 1930, Vannevar Bush built a partly electronic computer that was capable of solving differential equations, but this did not lead to an immediate revolution.
- Information may be stored on a Hollerith card (the so-called 'IBM card') in the form of holes which may be interpreted as numeric values or strings of text.
- In 1975, Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft, getting their first real start when they began producing BASIC interpreters for 6502-chip machines.
- In 1979, personal computers were sold in retail outlets for the first time, and the first Sony Walkman was sold, flagging two major changes in our lives.
- At the very lowest level, computers are made of combinations of AND gates and OR gates. Any operation we see is the result of these being combined by software.
- In principle, there is no reason why computers should use electronics: a number of workers in the past made successful mechanical and fluid logic computers.
- Computer operations are often under the control of algorithms, sets of steps to be taken that will, when followed, produce the needed answer in some form.
- Many computing processes rely on some form of Boolean algebra, although this is normally hidden deep within the process, where the user cannot see it.
- Computers do very few simple things, but combine these well, to do complex things. Mainly, they perform ordinary addition, subtraction, comparison and sorting.
- Multiplication in a computer is achieved by carrying out many separate additions until the product is reached, often with some clever shortcuts thrown in.
- Division in a computer is many separate subtractions, taking the divisor away repeatedly, counting with some clever shortcuts, the steps required to reach zero.
- Numbers may be expressed in different bases. We are most familiar with base-10 or decimal, although the binary, octal and hexadecimal systems are also common.
- Only in one number base, base-13, is it correct to write 6x9=42, although this is probably the most insignificant splat in this entire piece of work.
- The bubble sort is an example of an algorithm that may be used in computers to sort a set of data into some kind of numeric or alphabetical order.
- Information is created when data are ordered and sorted in some useful way. Statistics are used best when they summarize large data sets for quick analysis.
- Some aspects of real-world computing rely on game theory to provide the most satisfactory algorithm to produce the strategy that will get the best results.
- A number of computers may be linked together for distributed processing in a variety of ways, increasing their collective problem-solving power and speed.
- Computers of a sort form control systems in household appliances like washing machines and sewing machines, VCRs, DVDs, cars, and in many other places.
- Virtual reality makes a computer user feel, see and hear data by producing analogues of the output from a piece of analysis and using analogues as input.
- The study of control systems is sometimes called robotics, even though it does not normally involve the construction of a classic humanoid 'robot'.
- Wearable computers are likely to end the dominance of keyboard and mouse, using extra processing power to drive speech recognition and better visual displays.
- Moore's law limits future prospects for computing: it describes the rate at which computing power increases as chips become more densely packed.
- The limitation imposed by Moore's law is that there is a clear lower limit to the size of chip units that will stop chip density increasing forever.
- Quantum computing may get us around Moore's law for a while by producing computational units which are much smaller and much more densely packed onto a chip.
- Neural networks give computers the chance to 'learn', but this is by no means the same thing as artificial intelligence, because there is no freedom involved.
- Artificial intelligence is still some distance away, and existing 'smart' programs are still a long way from showing any form of intelligence.
- In 1950, Alan Turing proposed the Turing test criterion for an intelligent machine, generally still regarded as the test any artificial intelligence must pass.
- While computers have the power and software to generate apparently artistic work in music and art, they cannot yet compete with human creativity.
- Computers can be used to produce electronic music, and given sufficient equipment and power, have the potential to completely replace an orchestra.
- Biochips and animal-machine interfaces should be a reality by around 2025, according to the best available guesses, which is not saying a lot.
- In medicine, computerised tomography is important, because it takes vast amounts of data from X-rays, and produces a visual image that may be interpreted.
- The information gathered in genomics work can be applied through bioinformatics, which involves carrying out complex processing of raw data to gain information.
This file is http://members.ozemail.com.au/~macinnis/scifun/splatcomp.htm, first created on February 16, 2008. Last recorded revision (well I get lazy and forget sometimes!) was on February 16, 2008.
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