Computers represent a completely
new branch of science, the first of them appeared more than half a century ago.
Although still now, these machines have already brought about a real revolution
in science, technology, statistics, and automatic control.
The reason for this lies in the
fact that a mathematical formula can be found for almost all scientific and
technical problems. They can be solved without a computer but it would require
millions of arithmetical operations. No wonder that many problems of
remained unsolved for a long time, the volume of the calculations required
being above human possibilities.
A high speed electronic computer can carry out
several thousand arithmetical operations in one second. A calculation, which
would have taken several years of intense human work in the past, is now done
in a few minutes or hours.
The principle of this wonderful machine lies in
counting electric impulses. Numbers are represented as a sequence of such
impulses, and a radio-technical scheme counts them carrying out addition,
subtraction, multiplication, and division; all higher mathematical calculations
being reduced to these four operations.
If we introduce into the scheme first one
number and then another, the result will yield the sum of these two numbers.
Subtraction is reduced to the addition of negative numbers. Multiplication is
done by repeated additions of the necessary number of times, a division
– by repeated subtraction.
Electronic machines work according to a
programme prepared in advance which determines the sequence of operations. They
have a very efficient electronic “memory” which stores the initial data, the
intermediate numbers and final results as well as the working commands given to
The electronic machine can also be used for
control. This machine can also be used to make
translations from one language into another by converting words into figures
and vice versa.
This is how the translation is done from
English into French, for example.
The English words are converted into figures
using a number for each letter: thus if a – 16, n – 15, d – 30, the word “and” becomes “161530”. These figures are
punched out on a teletype ribbon.
The ribbon is fed into the electronic
calculating machine, into which “a vocabulary” has been installed in advance
with all the words, English and French converted into figures.
The machine “searches” (by a sequence of
electronic impulses) all through the English section of its vocabulary for a
number corresponding to each word that has been fed into it; each stage in this
“search” occupies about one ten thousandth of a second.
Having found the right number on the English
side, the machine automatically begins to search on the French side at the same
lightning speed, and the resulting translation comes out printed on a teletype
ribbon in French.
All the instruments invented up to now have
served to save human labour. But it is electronic computers which have come to
the help of the human brain, thus opening up boundless possibilities.