Saturday, 6 February 2010

Brian Kernighan talking about smart phones

What makes smart phones smart?
By Brian Kernighan GS '69

Arthur Clarke’s famous Third Law says, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Shazam is not magic: The various technological pieces are straightforward, though the specific algorithm that can so efficiently identify one tune out of zillions surely qualifies as advanced technology. Some deprecate the whole thing with comments like “It’s not really very good at classical music.” True enough, but viewed more generously, it’s nothing short of astonishing.

I kid my students about endowing a chair when they become rich and famous, but the real reward is watching enthusiastic and creative people convert dumb devices into smart ones. That really is indistinguishable from magic.

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