Past, Present & Future Role of Computers in Fisheries

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Chapter 1

Past, Present and Future Trends in the Use of Computers in Fisheries Research Bernard A. Megrey and Erlend Moksness

I think it’s fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we’ve ever created. They’re tools of communication, they’re tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user. Bill Gates, Co-founder, Microsoft Corporation Long before Apple, one of our engineers came to me with the suggestion that Intel ought to build a computer for the home. And I asked him, ‘What the heck would anyone want a computer for in his home?’ It seemed ridiculous! Gordon Moore, Past President and CEO, Intel Corporation

1.1 Introduction
Twelve years ago in 1996, when we prepared the first edition of Computers in Fisheries Research, we began with the claim ‘‘The nature of scientific computing has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades’’. We believe this statement remains valid even since 1996. As Heraclitus said in the 4th century B.C., ‘‘Nothing is permanent, but change!’’ The appearance of the personal computer in the early 1980s changed forever the landscape of computing. Today’s scientific computing environment is still changing, often at breathtaking speed. In our earlier edition, we stated that fisheries science as a discipline was slow to adopt personal computers on a wide-scale with use being well behind that in the business world. Pre-1996, computers were scarce and it was common for more than one user to share a machine, which was usually placed in a public area. Today, in many modern fisheries laboratories, it is common for scientists to use multiple computers in their personal offices, a desktop

B.A. Megrey (*) U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service; Alaska Fisheries Science Center, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, BIN C15700, Seattle, WA 98115, USA

B.A. Megrey, E. Moksness (eds.), Computers in Fisheries Research, 2nd ed., DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-8636-6_1, Ó Springer ScienceþBusiness Media B.V. 2009

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B.A. Megrey and E. Moksness

personal computer and a portable laptop is often the minimum configuration. Similarly, in many lab offices, there are several computers, each dedicated to a specific computational task such as large scale simulations. We feel that because of improvements in computational performance and advances in portability and miniaturization, the use of computers and computer applications to support fisheries and resource management activities is still rapidly expanding as well as the diversity of research areas in which they are applied. The important role computers play in contemporary fisheries research is unequivocal. The trends we describe, which continue to take place throughout the world-wide fisheries research community, produce significant gains in work productivity, increase our basic understanding of natural systems, help fisheries professionals detect patterns and develop working hypotheses, provide critical tools to rationally manage scarce natural resources, increase our ability to organize, retrieve, and document data and data sources, and in general encourage clearer thinking and more thoughtful analysis of fisheries problems. One can only wonder what advances and discoveries well known theorists and fisheries luminaries such as Ludwig von Bertalanffy, and William Ricker, or Ray Beverton and Sidney Holt would have made if they had had access to a laptop computer. The objective of this book is to provide a vehicle for fisheries professionals to keep abreast of recent and potential future developments in the application of computers in their specific area of research and to familiarize them with advances in new technology and new application areas. We hope to accomplish this by comparing where we find ourselves today compared to when the first edition was published in 1996. Hopefully, this comparison will help explain why computational tools and...
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