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The Discrete Charm of the Machine: Why the World Became Digital

Ken Steiglitz



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Princeton University Pres
15 January 2019
Mathematics & Sciences; Philosophy of mathematics; History of mathematics; Electronics engineering; Computer science; Mathematical theory of computation
The genesis of the digital idea and why it transformed civilization A few short decades ago, we were informed by the smooth signals of analog television and radio; we communicated using our analog telephones; and we even computed with analog computers. Today our world is digital, built with zeros and ones. Why did this revolution occur? The Discrete Charm of the Machine explains, in an engaging and accessible manner, the varied physical and logical reasons behind this radical transformation.

The spark of individual genius shines through this story of innovation: the stored program of Jacquard's loom; Charles Babbage's logical branching; Alan Turing's brilliant abstraction of the discrete machine; Harry Nyquist's foundation for digital signal processing; Claude Shannon's breakthrough insights into the meaning of information and bandwidth; and Richard Feynman's prescient proposals for nanotechnology and quantum computing. Ken Steiglitz follows the progression of these ideas in the building of our digital world, from the internet and artificial intelligence to the edge of the unknown. Are questions like the famous traveling salesman problem truly beyond the reach of ordinary digital computers? Can quantum computers transcend these barriers? Does a mysterious magical power reside in the analog mechanisms of the brain? Steiglitz concludes by confronting the moral and aesthetic questions raised by the development of artificial intelligence and autonomous robots.

The Discrete Charm of the Machine examines why our information technology, the lifeblood of our civilization, became digital, and challenges us to think about where its future trajectory may lead.
By:   Ken Steiglitz
Imprint:   Princeton University Pres
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 155mm, 
ISBN:   9780691179438
ISBN 10:   0691179433
Pages:   256
Publication Date:   15 January 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  College/higher education ,  ELT Advanced ,  Primary
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Unspecified

Ken Steiglitz is professor emeritus of computer science and senior scholar at Princeton University. His books include Combinatorial Optimization, A Digital Signal Processing Primer, and Snipers, Shills, and Sharks (Princeton). He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Reviews for The Discrete Charm of the Machine: Why the World Became Digital

The Discrete Charm of the Machine is a fun book! Steiglitz has a beautiful writing style that mixes hardcore facts with playful observations. --William Cook, author of In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman The Discrete Charm of the Machine is an inspirational must-read and delightful guide for anyone interested in traveling from the computational past through to the present. Reading this book will make you rethink what computation really is. --Andrew Adamatzky, University of the West of England Written by one of the pioneers of digital signal processing, The Discrete Charm of the Machine takes readers on an entertaining, accessible stroll through the history of the conversion of computer and entertainment technology from analog to digital. Steiglitz clearly had fun composing this enjoyable book. --Alan V. Oppenheim, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Well written and well organized, The Discrete Charm of the Machine discusses the transition from analog to digital both in technology and in the way we approach problems in computing. With an expansive scope that ranges from low-level physics to high-level questions about the limitations of computation, this is a welcome book in the field. --Lance Fortnow, author of The Golden Ticket

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