A Machine Made This Book: Ten Sketches Of Computer Science
How do we decide where to put ink on a page to draw letters and pictures? How can computers represent all the world’s languages and writing systems? What exactly is a computer program, what and how does it calculate, and how can we build one? Can we compress information to make it easier to store and quicker to transmit? How do newspapers print photographs with grey tones using just black ink and white paper? How are paragraphs laid out automatically on a page and split across multiple pages?
In A Machine Made this Book, using examples from the publishing industry, John Whitington introduces the fascinating discipline of Computer Science to the uninitiated.
It can be tremendously difficult for an outsider to understand why computer scientists are interested in Computer Science. It is easy to see the sense of wonder of the astrophysicist, or of the evolutionary biologist or zoologist. We don’t know too much about the mathematician, but we are in awe anyway. But Computer Science? Well, we suppose it must have to do with computers, at least. ‘Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes’, the great Dutch computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra (1930-2002), wrote. That is to say, the computer is our tool for exploring this subject and for building things in its world, but it is not the world itself.
This book makes no attempt at completeness whatever. It is, as the subtitle suggests, a set of little sketches of the use of computer science to address the problems of book production. By looking from different angles at interesting challenges and pretty solutions, we hope to gain some insight into the essence of the thing.
John hopes that, by the end, you will have some understanding of why these things interest computer scientists and, perhaps, you will find that some of them interest you.