What is a 'computer' anymore?

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People used to be computers. That is, for hundreds of years, computing was the work of humans, and very often women. Then, in the mid-20th century, machines began to take on the bulk of computing work, and the definition of “computer” changed.

A computer was no longer just a human reckoner. Just the way a calculator was no longer a person who, as Webster’s 1828 dictionary had defined it, “estimates or considers the force and effect of causes, with a view to form a correct estimate of the effects.” In 70 or so years, a computer went from being a room-sized monstrosity that ran on pulleys and bulbs to a four-ounce touchscreen that’s as ordinary as it is miraculous. Read more…

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