[Newbies] Software computer

subbukk subbukk at gmail.com
Sat May 12 13:48:27 UTC 2007


When trying to explain the Squeak 'image' file to young learners and non-tech 
friends, the term 'software computer' popped into my mind. Squeak allows one 
to create a 'software computer' that holds text, sounds and pictures. It is a 
computer that you can carry along on a floppy, hard-disk or USB flash memory.

Just as we use microscope to look into minute stuff, we use a physical 
computer (and squeak vm) to look into our software computer and make changes 
to it. The computer can be used to record sounds, make drawings, access 
web-sites or chat with others and so on. This computer can even hang or crash 
like a physical computer :-). But unlike physical machines, perfect copies 
(images) are easy to make and share with friends. If the computer breaks 
down, you can send it for 'repairs' over email while continuing to work on a 
older copy. One can create potentially infinite varieties of copies without 
worrying about hazardous waste or recycling. Each copy will be a 'perfect 
image' and we dont have to worry about loose nuts or bolts :-).

I tried this metaphor on some (unsuspecting) folks and they could get it 
faster than when I used the book or toy metaphor.  One can't crash a book by 
coloring it, for instance, so they dont see a need to snapshot an image 
often. For most people, "toys" are not for serious work, while Squeak can be 
used to produce serious essays or music too.

Is the metaphor appropriate?

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