Crossing the boundary - analogue universe, digital worlds

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4 Crossing the boundary

4.1 Mere numbers?

If I could write the beauty of your eyes

And in fresh numbers number all your graces

The age to come would say, This poet lies’.

(Shakespeare, Sonnet 17)

As you learned in the region inside the boundary, the computer world, is completely digital – a world of numbers. So taking features of our analogue experience across the boundary into a computer must mean somehow reducing or transforming these features into numbers. In this section I aim to show: how, despite the fears of the poet Blake (see Figure 9), various types of analogue item can all be reduced to numbers and stored inside the boundary in a computer's memory.

Figure 9 Newton by William Blake. The poet and mystic Blake reviled what he saw as Newton's attempt to reduce the wonder of creation to mere numbers

You now know that computers handle numbers in binary form, but to write them in binary here would be agonisingly tedious, and would not add to our understanding. So, from now on, whenever I refer to a specific number in a computer's memory, I shall use its decimal equivalent.

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