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The effect of programming | 756 comments | Create New Account
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The effect of programming
Authored by: Chromatix on Friday, July 20 2012 @ 08:00 AM EDT
But what if "key1" and "key2" were defined as "static const final" and, after compilation, burned in a PROM? That makes it exactly equivalent to the physical, mechanical key, which as already established, is merely an instance of a class of devices.

I own a great variety of computers, running on everything from a 1MHz 6502 to a 4GHz Core i7, by way of PowerPCs, ARMs and even a small MIPS box. On many of them, I can supply the same source code to an appropriate compiler, and it will spit out some form of machine code that will run on that computer. That machine code will of course be entirely different for a PowerPC, an ARM, or a standard PC, but it represents the same intended functionality.

So despite their huge variety of form and implementation, from a few thousand transistors in the CPU up to over a billion transistors, they are all instances of a class called "general purpose computer". The software actually running on them is entirely different, and yet the idea behind it is the same. For example, I can run Abiword, Gnumeric and Inkscape on fully three- quarters of my collection, across four distinct Instruction Set Architectures.

And if I load one of those three software packages on a computer, it does not make the computer unable to run any of the other things it did before, nor prevent me from loading the other two - or indeed from running them simultaneously. Modern general-purpose computers - where "modern" means "designed any time in the past 20 years or so" - are expressly designed to permit this.

Therefore, while loading software adds capabilities to a computer in practice, it always had the potential capability of performing those functions, and it is *not* suddenly transformed into a "special purpose computer" as a result. If it were so transformed, it would not be able to run Inkscape at the same time as Abiword, or to play a CD in the optical drive while I work. Yet I have a counterexample right here - my old IBM Thinkpad can do all three things simultaneously - even while running Windows - so any new computer that could not would be laughed out of the market.

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

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