Computers

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 89 (1):32–73 (2008)
Abstract
I offer an explication of the notion of computer, grounded in the practices of computability theorists and computer scientists. I begin by explaining what distinguishes computers from calculators. Then, I offer a systematic taxonomy of kinds of computer, including hard-wired versus programmable, general-purpose versus special-purpose, analog versus digital, and serial versus parallel, giving explicit criteria for each kind. My account is mechanistic: which class a system belongs in, and which functions are computable by which system, depends on the system's mechanistic properties. Finally, I briefly illustrate how my account sheds light on some issues in the history and philosophy of computing as well as the philosophy of mind.
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