1 + 1 = ?

After helping someone with a computer issue, they would invariably ask.

“Why did my computer do that?”

“Well, the program expected a one, and in its place was a zero.”  I would oft reply.  When they answered with a puzzled look, I would continue.

“Computers communicate in ones and zeros, off and on.  The sequence the ones and zeros arrive in, are what determines what will happen.”

For most computer users, this didn’t make any more sense than if I was speaking Japanese.  But they would smile, and nod, and move onto a different subject.

But that is what computers use.  Digital is ones and zeros, off and on, open and closed.  Going back to the very beginning of creating the first computer, engineers wanted to use variable voltage to determine numbers.  One volt, is a one, two volts is a two, and seven volts is a seven.  But this proved too difficult with the technology of the day.  Maintaining a precise voltage, or varying it with any precision was nearly impossible.

Engineers decided the off and on approach was best.  The deviation between off and on was pretty clear.  Off is no power, on is power.  Pretty cut and dry.  It’s gone a little beyond that since the inception of the computer.  Now they use variations in voltage, negative voltage, and a myriad of other techniques to designate ones and zeros.

But when these techniques screw up, a one replaces a zero, and the program, computer, or peripheral loses its fricken mind, and you call someone like me.

Or you skip me, reboot the computer, and if that doesn’t work, then you call me.

These ones and zeros move through the processor of a computer at a lightning fast pace.  Millions of one and zeros in a second.  Hell, in a millisecond.  That is why it looks like a computer can multitask.  Because it does it so fast, it looks like it is doing multiple tasks at one time.  But in reality, it is switching between tasks quicker than you can say WOW!

Not only can a computer not multitask, but computer cannot think.  It can only take the data it is given, compare it against the data given to it before, such as a program, and spit out the results.  This article for instance, compares my keyboard strokes against the programmed instructions in Word, and spits out words.  While doing so, it compares those words to another internal database to see if I am spelling them correctly, and using them in the right manner.  Not as efficiently as my semi-regular commentator, Christopher.  But Word does a pretty decent job.  Far better than I can.

Basically, no matter how many times you ask a computer what 1 + 1 is, the computer will reply 2.

Fortunately it has no capacity to freelance.  It cannot think, it cannot create, and it cannot come up with a creative solution to life’s problems.  All a computer can do is compare inputted data against other data, and come up with the best possible, and logical answer.

Why do I say “fortunately”?

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