[lit-ideas] Re: What is a computer program?

  • From: "Mike Geary" <atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 19 Dec 2005 20:45:28 -0600


----- Original Message ----- From: "Peter D. Junger" <junger@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "Literature and Ideas List" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Monday, December 19, 2005 1:04 PM
Subject: [lit-ideas] What is a computer program?




I have been struggling for years with the fact that many lawyers and, I presume, others have no idea of the nature of computer programs. Thus, for example, the trial judge in Junger---that's me---v. Daley claimed that the source code of a computer program "is a device, like embedded circuitry in a telephone."

Now computer programs have two aspects: (i) a text containing
"instructions to a computer" and (ii) a process that occurs when
those instructions are implemented.

Now, of course, neither the text nor the process are tangible things
like the wiring in a computer.  They are neither matter nor energy,
but rather information.  And not only are computer programs
information, but so is the data that they process.

But it seems that most people---perhaps including myself---have no idea
of what information is or how to describe it.

In the case of digital computers the program and data can always be
viewed as being composed of numbers, but that just raises the question
what is a number, especially when digital computers don't have any
views about anything.

Do any of you have any suggestions?

I don't, by the way, think that it helps, for my purposes, to speak of
numbers as Platonic ideas or to say that the number _n_ is the
set of all sets containing exactly n elements.

Thanks,
Peter
--
Peter D. Junger--Case Western Reserve University Law School--Cleveland, OH
EMAIL: junger@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx    URL:  http://samsara.law.cwru.edu
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