When the first electronic computers emerged from university and military laboratories in
the late 1940s and early 1950s, visionaries proclaimed them the harbingers of a second industrial
revolution that would transform business, government and industry. But few laymen, even if they
were aware of the machines, could see the connection. Experts too, were sceptical. Not only
were computers huge, expensive, one-of-a-kind devices designed for performing abstruse
scientific and military calculations, such as cracking codes and calculations missile trajectories,
they were also extremely difficult to handle.
Now, it is clear that computers are not only here to stay, but they have a profound effect
on society as well. As John McCarthy, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University,
speculated in 1966: 'The computer gives signs of becoming the contemporary counterpart of the
steam engine that brought on the industrial revolution - one that is still gathering momentum and
whose true nature had yet to be seen.'
Today's applications of computers are vast. They are used to run ordinary household
appliances such as televisions and microwaves, to being tools in the workplaces through word
processing, spreadsheets, and graphics software, to running monumental tasks such as being the
heart and soul of the nations tax processing department, and managing the project timetables of
the Space Shuttle. It is obvious that the computer is now and always will be inexorably linked to
our lives, and we have no choice but to accept this technology and learn how to harness its total
With any progressing technology, an unauthorized application can almost be found for it.
A computer could and has been used for theft and fraud - for example, as a database and manager
of illegal activities such as drug trafficking and pornography. However, we must not just consider
the harmful applications of the...