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A Computer Oriented toward Spatial Problems

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1 Author(s)
Unger, S.H. ; Bell Telephone Labs., Inc., Whippany, N.J.

A general purpose digital computer can, in principle, solve any well defined problem. At many tasks, such as the solution of systems of linear equations, these machines are thousands of times as fast as human beings. However, they are relatively inept at solving many problems where the data is arranged naturally in a spatial form. For example, when it comes to playing chess or recognizing sophisticated patterns, present day machines cannot match the performance of their designers. The difficulty in such cases appears to be that conventional computers can actively cope with only a small amount of information at any one time. (This circumstance is aptly illustrated by the title of an article by Samuel, "Computing Bit by Bit.") It appears that efficient handling of problems of the type mentioned above cannot be accomplished without some form of parallel action. A stored program computer is described which can handle spatial problems by operating directly on information in planar form without scanning or using other techniques for transforming the problem into some other domain. The order structure of this machine is explained and illustrated by a few simple programs. An estimate of the size of the computer (based on one possible design) is given. Programs have been written that enable the machine to recognize alphabetic characters independent of position, proportion, and size.

Published in:

Proceedings of the IRE  (Volume:46 ,  Issue: 10 )