Many objects in every day life are programmable at this time. Video cassette recorders (VCRs) and microwave ovens are perhaps the most ubiquitous. However, relatively few of us use the sophistication of our microwave ovens: most can start cooking at a certain time, cook until a predetermined food temperature is reached, and keep food warm thereafter. Most of us, however, use the microwave oven primarily to warm up coffee. Similarly, many VCRs can be programmed to record a program at the same time and channel every weekday, a program at another time and channel every week, and one or two programs at their own times and channels on specific dates. Most of us, however, still press “record” at the right time, or punch in the number from the television program guide that tells the recorder all the appropriate information. With the VCR, particularly, programming has become ubiquitous precisely by being hidden under a layer of user interface.
At the same time as the need to program our devices has become unnecessary in the general case, the ability to program our devices has become more valuable. Programming the microwave oven can make a cooked meal at the end of particularly harried day possible; programming the VCR enables “time shifting” of daily programs, watching two programs broadcast at the same time, or recording movies broadcast even when one is away for an extended period.
Similarly, the ability to program a calculator has become both less necessary and more valuable. It is less necessary as many functions have been embedded into the calculator itself: sophisticated transcendental functions, number base conversions, basic statistics, matrix arithmetic, linear regression, numerical integration and differentiation, root finding, and function graphing are now part of the calculator function. However, valuable specialized functions, such as time series analysis, linear programming, non-linear optimization, and dose-response analysis, which would otherwise require an expensive computer and very expensive commercial software, can now be carried in a shirt pocket. The ability to program a programmable calculator can now be a decided advantage in a great many occupations.
Copyright © 2001 Brian Hetrick
Page last updated 30 December 2001.
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