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Escapism and Virtual RealityABSTRACTThe use of computers in society provides obvious benefits and somedrawbacks Virtual Reality a new method of interacting with any computeris presented and its advantages and disadvantages are considered The humanaspect of computing and computers as a form of escapism are developed withespecial reference to possible future technological developments Theconsequences of a weakening of the sense of reality based upon the physicalworld are also considered Finally some ways to reduce the unpleasantaspects of this potential dislocation are examined A glossary of computingterms is also includedComputers as MachinesThe progression of the machine into all aspects of human life has continuedunabated since the medieval watchmakers of Europe and the Renaissance studyof science that followed Clocks Whilst this change has beenexceedingly rapid from a historical perspective it can nevertheless bedivided into distinct periods though rather arbitrarily by some criteriasuch as how people travelled or how information was transferred over longdistances However these periods are defined their lengths have becomeincreasingly shorter with each new technological breakthrough now taking lessthan ten years to become accepted recent examples include facsimilemachines video recorders and microwave ovensOne of the most recent and hence most rapidly absorbed periods has been thatof the computer The Age of Computing began withCharles Babbage in the late 19th century Babbage grew in thecalculating machines between the wars EarlyIBM continued during thecryptanalysis efforts of World War II TuringBletchley and finally blossomed in the late 1970s with mass market applications in thedeveloped countries eg JapanSord Computers have gone through severalgenerations of development in the last fifty years and their rate of changefits neatly to exponential curves Graphs suggesting that the length ofeach generation will become shorter and shorter decreasing until someunforeseen limit is reached This pattern agrees with the more generaldecrease of length between other technological periodsThe great strength of computers whether viewed as complex machines or moreabstractly as merely another type of tool lies in their enormous flexibilityThis flexibility is designed
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