Before computers were invented, very little was known about outer space. With the technology we have now, we are learning new things everyday. Computers are used to follow the paths of asteroids and predict their future movements. On 6 December 1997, a mile-wide asteroid was discovered by astronomer Jim Scotti, a member in the University of Arizona's Spacewatch group. He used a 77-year-old telescope along with an electric camera that caught the asteroid on film. He then used a computer specially programmed to look for objects moving against the background of fixed stars. The computer worked so well that Scotti described the asteroid as "sticking out like a sore thumb" (Jaroff 68). His information was relayed to Brian Marsden, a Harvard
astronomer, to determine the course of the asteroid. After many calculations, Marsden's computer showed the rock would pass Earth approximately 600,000 miles away. This may not seem important, but if an asteroid was on a line with Earth, the computer would show us and enable us to deflect the projectile with nuclear power (Jaroff 69). Thus, computers can even help save lives.
In "Spies in the Sky", Bill Sweetman writes about the use of satellites and computers for spying on other countries. On 20 December 1996, three computer operated satellites were released into orbit for use against Iraq. Each one costs 800,000,000 dollars or more, most of which is spent on the computer equipment needed to control them. When the radar data is received from the satellite dish, it has low resolution and lacks clarity. Computer texturing and imaging clear the pictures and even show objects that may be hidden beneath sand, soil, or snow. When resolution was questioned by critics, the American government produced a readable spy photo of a Russian car's license plate (42-48).
Computers have also made communications easier than ever. Today, e-mail is beginning to replace the ordinary post office and telephone as a way to keep in touch. E-mail provides the best of both worlds; it is instantaneous and free. Before e-mail, one would have to send a letter that
would take days to arrive, or they would have to use the telephone, which would cost money if the call was long distance. The Internet saves businesses money because they do not have to send out catalogs to thousands of customers (Internet World 48-51).
Automobiles have undergone several changes since computers were put in them. Computers provide options like cruise control, traction control, power steering, anti-lock brakes, and the use of fuel-injected engines. The other options are nice, but fuel-injection is a vast improvement over the older, caurberated engines. Fuel-injected engines give a car more power, better gas mileage, and burn gasoline cleaner (Sherman 61-63). With the help of computers, automobiles run faster, longer, and are safer to the environment.
In the article, "The Big Bank Theory", Joshua Cooper Ramo writes that in the not so distant future, the world's money system could have a major change. It is possible in the next ten years that cash, credit cards, ATM cards, ID cards, insurance cards, all information pertaining to one's medical needs and the amount of money in your possession could all be on a single electronic card(Time 50-51). Conceivably, this idea would make things simpler than the current way of spending. Digital cash has many advantages. Money could be sent over e-mail using a string of digits,
ending the need to balance a checkbook every month....