Your old computer might be useless to you but valuable to a non-profit organization. © iStockphoto/Devonyu The fast pace of computer innovation has provided us with more powerful systems at lower prices. This leaves many of us with a dilemma. Every time we upgrade one of our computers to gain more speed, more storage or more bells and whistles, we're left with an older computer that no longer meets our needs. For most of us, the easiest thing to do is to put the old computer system in a closet, the basement or some other out-of-sight, out-of-mind location. There are, however, better solutions, particularly if the computer in question is still operable and less than five years old. The worst choice you can make is to put the computer (or any electronic equipment) in the trash. Landfills are no place for the harmful chemicals, including lead, cadmium, beryllium and mercury, found in virtually all digital equipment. With many other solutions available, there's no reason to … [Read more...] about How to Donate Your Computer to Charity
Many times you can tell if your computer has a virus, but it's rarely this obvious. © iStockphoto/YanC We all know computer viruses -- and other kinds of malware -- can cause problems ranging from irritating to catastrophic. Some malware replicates itself until it fills up all available space on your hard drive, turning your computer into a brick. Other kinds corrupt data on your machine or make your computer unstable. A few will even attempt to use your e-mail programs to distribute the malicious code to everyone in your contacts list. And there's always the possibility a cracker -- that's a malicious hacker -- will use malware to get remote access to your computer. No one wants to own a computer infected with a nasty virus. That's why it's very important to practice safe computing habits and to install reliable anti-virus software. You can avoid most malware just by paying attention and staying away from a few common traps. If your anti-virus software is up to date, you … [Read more...] about How to Know if Your Computer is Infected with a Virus
What if the reality we experience every day were really just a simulation running inside a giant supercomputer? Photographer is my life/Getty Images The "Matrix" trilogy of sci-fi thrillers present the fascinating premise that what most people think of as reality is actually a computer simulation, created by super-intelligent evil machines who want to harvest human bodies for electrical power. But the notion that our reality is a simulation isn't just some clever plot device for screenwriters. A 2003 article in Philosophical Quarterly by Oxford University faculty member Nick Bostrom proposed that very thought right in its title: "Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?" He went on to argue that it was a distinct possibility that we were living in a simulation, at least based what we are capable of deducing from "the dark forest of our current ignorance." More recently, popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson raised the prospect that we might not only be living in a computer … [Read more...] about Reality Probably Isn’t a Computer Simulation After All, Analysis Finds
Charles Babbage created the concept of a programmable computer. National Library of Wales/Wikimedia Commons We could argue that the first computer was the abacus or its descendant, the slide rule, invented by William Oughtred in 1622. But the first computer resembling today's modern machines was the Analytical Engine, a device conceived and designed by British mathematician Charles Babbage between 1833 and 1871. Before Babbage came along, a "computer" was a person, someone who literally sat around all day, adding and subtracting numbers and entering the results into tables. The tables then appeared in books, so other people could use them to complete tasks, such as launching artillery shells accurately or calculating taxes. It was, in fact, a mammoth number-crunching project that inspired Babbage in the first place [source: Campbell-Kelly]. Napoleon Bonaparte initiated the project in 1790, when he ordered a switch from the old imperial system of measurements to the new metric … [Read more...] about Who Invented the Computer?
Human beings love a good showdown between man and machine. iStockphoto/Thinkstock I'm a big fan of the TV show "Jeopardy!", so I eagerly tuned in when IBM's computer, Watson, went up against long-time champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in February 2011. The outcome -- Watson as the runaway champion -- wasn't surprising, but it was fun to watch. IBM got to showcase how far artificial intelligence has come, but it took more than a few decades to get there. The roots of Watson's triumph lie in a much humbler machine playing an ancient game: chess. The first references to chess date back to about 600 AD in what is now northern India, and trade routes spread the game across the world. By the 1800s, there were official chess organizations and championships. But before that, there was the very first chess-playing machine -- sort of. An inventor named Wolfgang von Kempelen created The Turk for the Empress of Austria-Hungary, and the machine toured around Europe for years. But The … [Read more...] about What computer defeated a champion chess player?