BookNotes Series: The Art of Doing Science and Engineering by Richard Hamming | Chapter 2

Chapter 2 - Foundations of the Digital (Discrete) Revolution

We are near the end of a revolution of signaling: from using continuous signals to using discrete pulses. Three major reasons for the revolution:

  1. Discrete signaling can enable deeper and more accurate computations than continuous signaling. Continuous signaling uses amplification to compensate for natural losses. Errors are amplified from the current stage to the next stage. Discrete signaling uses incoming pulses to gate a standard source of pulses; repeaters, instead of amplifiers, are used. Noises and errors from the current stage, if not significant, is automatically removed in the next stage.
  2. Invention and development of transistors and integrated circuits enable cheaper and faster computing.
  3. Society is moving from a material good society to an information service society. Six minor factors:
  4. Computer powered robots are taking over manufacturing. Robots in manufacturing can do the following:
    1. produce better products under tighter control limits
    2. produce usually a cheaper product
    3. produce a different product, in the sense that shifting from manual manufacturing to robot manufacturing often drives an imaginative redesign of an equivalent product
  5. Computers are making experimentation in science easier, cheaper, faster via simulation.
  6. Computers are enabling better design and more precisely controlled situations in the field of engineering.
  7. Computers are changing the way organizations operate and decision-making process are determined. One example is computers gave top managements the power to micromanage their organization. Top managements have shown little ability to resist the temptation of micromanaging, yet central planning has been repeatedly shown to give poor results.
  8. Computers have progressed beyond their original purpose of number crunching and have proceeded to invade many informal aspects of humans’ daily life.
  9. The role of information has become central to humans’ survival, notably in wars. One must assume the responsibility for what one believes.