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Crossing the boundary: analogue universe, digital worlds
Crossing the boundary: analogue universe, digital worlds

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2.4 The pervasive computer

We can start with a simple proposition:

The computer's job is to acquire, store, present, control, exchange and manipulate interesting characteristics of the natural world.

So what are ‘interesting characteristics of the natural world‘? Obviously that depends on your point of view. An ordinary tourist might want to capture a memory of some scene she was experiencing – moonlight on the Acropolis, or the majesty of the Grand Canyon, for instance. A scientist might be interested in the colour and intensity of light from a distant galaxy. An engineer might want to focus on the pattern of forces operating on a bridge. A graphic artist, contemplating the same bridge, would be more concerned with its shape, outline and colouring, while an accountant would focus on the bridge's cost. We all extract from our experience the features that most concern us. For this, the computer is a particularly powerful tool.

Now let's look in a little more detail at what we want the computer to do with these interesting characteristics of the world.