Computers in Science and Technology: Early Indications

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  06 Jul 1984:
Vol. 225, Issue 4657, pp. 11-18
DOI: 10.1126/science.225.4657.11


Over the past 20 years computer technology has advanced rapidly, especially in the areas of logic and memory. Continued growth at a similar pace can be expected through and probably beyond the 1980's. The technology has already had such major effects on scientific research and engineering that it is of practical importance to try to predict its evolution and uses. It is likely that the trend toward smaller, faster, and cheaper circuits made possible by improved lithographic techniques will continue, resulting in a factor of 10 increase in speed of central processing units and an even greater increase in speed of single-chip microprocessors by the end of the decade. Similar progress is expected in the areas of memory, magnetic storage, printers, and displays. Overall, approximately 20 percent growth annually in the capability of computing systems can be projected. How this continually increasing computing power will affect scientific and engineering activity is more difficult to predict, but some patterns are emerging. Observations of technical personnel at the IBM research laboratory at Yorktown, New York, where the average user has access to a large amount of computing capability and to a worldwide computer network, indicate that workers in different areas have reacted to computer technology in different ways. Whereas engineers have used computing power, displays, and the ability to communicate or share information more or less equally, management has used communication most and scientists have put the greatest value on computing power and displays.