Friday, May 8, 2015

Every computer consists of two aspects, known as hardware and software (software here includes information).
The hardware in a solid-state computer is concrete and localized, consisting of a central processing unit, display, key board, external disk drive, cd-rom, floppies, etc. - All the parts you can drag into Radio Shack for repair if the computer is malfunctioning.
The software consists of programs that can exist in many forms including the totally abstract. A program can be "in" the computer in the sense that it is recorded in the CPU or on a disk which is hitched up to the computer. A program can also exist on a piece of paper, if I invented it myself, or in a manual, if it is a standard program; in these cases, it is not "in" the computer but can be put "in" at any time. But a program can be even more tenuous than that; it can exist only in my head, if I have never written it down, or if I have used it once and erased it.
The hardware is more "real" than the software in that you can always locate it in space-time - if it's not in the bedroom, somebody must have moved it to the study, etc. On the other hand the software is more "real" in the sense that you can smash the hardware back to dust ("Kill" the computer) and the software still exists, and can "materialize" or "manifest" again in a different computer.

(Any speculations about reincarnation at this point are the responsibility of the reader, not the author).

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