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A Digital World Part 2

The Computer, Swiss Army Knife of the digital world

The computer is THE tool to work on all kinds of digital media. The reason it is so popular is that it leverages the very unique advantage of digital media over analog: The ability to clone without loss. You can transfer a picture from your digital camera to your computer without loss. You can display it, send it by email, burn a CD with it, all that without loss. And when you remove red-eyes on a picture (in a non-lossy format), the rest of the pic doesn't get affected at all - no loss.

All that makes it very practical to manipulate and organize pictures. The same can be said about video and music. Again, the same can be said about all kind of digital stuff: Spreadsheets, text, etc...

It is to note that without a powerful tool such as a computer, digital media is a pain to manipulate. Look at one of the most ancient form of digital medium: The book. A book is essentially digital, in that it represent information that can be cloned without loss: words. Inserting a paragraph inside a book has always been a pain because all the end of the book has to be shifted. With a computer, inserting a paragraph is as simple as typing it down.

And why is it so easy with a computer? Because computer has a bunch of what is called "Random Access Memory". That is memory that can be accessed randomly, as opposed to a magnetic tape for example, where you can access only the part that is in front of the head. If you want another part, you have to rewinf or ff. the tape, a very slow process. The only drawback of RAM is that it is volatile, that is it doesn't retain data over a power loss. To compensate, computers have a Hard Disk Drive which, while not being true RAM memory approximate it pretty closely.

This is the true power of computers: Being able to manipulate digital information and store it on a randomly-accessible medium.