Technology: Commentary:

On the Advancement of Computer Software

By Eiichi Yoshikawa

Can it be said that the world of computers is the fastest changing of all of the technological fields? I’ve discovered one insight about the advancement of the computer software, which has held true for the last 16 years and continues to hold true today.

The birth of the personal computer was preceded by the introduction of the UNIX operating system, which is also known today as C language; once C language was fully developed, “algorithm”, which was advocated by Dijkstra, was fully utilized leading to the development of millions of computer applications.

The personal computer first appeared somewhat more than 20 years ago. Still today the personal computer repeats the mainframe computer’s basic concept of data storage and manipulation. As computer hardware developed, the microcomputer chip was designed as a von Neumann type device, while, in terms of software, in the early stages of development this was limited to assembled subroutines. It was during that early era that I used to write computer languages such as FORTH in basic assembly language. Then “compatibility” was instituted and first appeared in operating systems such as MS-DOS;

During the early days of the personal computer I was working in the interdisciplinary endeavor based around prolog language and artificial intelligence. In implementing prolog interpreters, or arguing about logic, I often thought about (and more often wished for) this inference procedure to be applied to real problem solving, ideally in a repetitive sequence. It was during one these moments that I suddenly became aware that this symbolic manipulation, which one can certainly refer to as computation, should always be interpreted to a real world phenomenon whenever it would be useful to real world problem solving. Thus the “interlog” prolog with interpretational procedures was discovered, about which I soon thereafter published a book in Japanese.

After I discovered interlog, the world of computer software moved ahead as I predicted, with one new development coming on the heels of the preceding innovation. During that period I worked at a company which produced software for the Macintosh. Macintosh's concept of the resource file is simply the idea of interpretation accompanied to a computation. I was not surprised when VC++, or VB, and ACCESS were later devised by Microsoft and the world of software development became GUI-based (GUI being the technique by which today’s computers feature a display of buttons, menus, graphics icons, and the method by which the user's commands are delivered as instructions to a computer) because it is merely an example of the interpretation of the computation.

Today's computer world encompasses both the mammoth Internet structure and sophisticated GUI-based personal computers. But it is just the way as I predicted when I discovered interlog and that automating such interpretation of symbols are feasible.

And it is in this way that I now envision the computer as a tool to enhance human reasoning power and communication. Although there exists a great (and, unfortunately, an increasing) “digital divide”, anyone (or any now-impoverished nation) having the opportunity to become well educated in English and mathematics can develop the understanding and method by which to equalize themselves within the marketplace of the world -- however, in order to achieve this great and liberating equalization, large strides must be taken to bring education, computer literacy, computer availability, and, ultimately, computer excellence to those who are today in grave danger of being left behind as the race for technology speeds ahead.

BWW Society Member Eiichi Yoshikawa founded Six-Tree Software Corporation (STS Corp) in 1989. He has written numerous programs for Sumitomo and Hitachi Electronics and Nippon High System; he is also an expert in Xerox lisp, VAX VMS, Macintosh, DOS, HP and Sun's UNIX. Mr. Yoshikawa designed the "coalcal" or coal ben computer program, which today is used internationally for coal exploration and the optimization of energy production.

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