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Chapter 1. Computers

Pinning down the meaning of a word is devilishly difficult, particularly when it's used by a sideshow huckster, lawyer, or some other professional liar. Definitions vary not only with who is speaking, but also when. Language evolves and meanings shift. Words often go to extremes, shifting meanings even to oppositesócold becomes hot, bad becomes good, and rap becomes popular.

Computer is one of those shifty words. Exactly what makes up a computer depends on who you are and when you're talking about. Today a computer is something you can hold in your hand or at least lift with your hands. Thirty years ago, you would have needed a hand from a friend or two to roll a computer machine around. Sixty years ago, a computer could have given you a hand.

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