The electronic ball-game too, devised by Siemens & Halske, is in reality far more than a mere game. On a television screen you can see the inside of a box in which a table-tennis ball is being thrown. The ball jumps about in the box, bounces from the walls now and again, and finally falls out of the box through a hole in its floor. In fact, however, neither a ball nor a box exist. Both of them are merely imaginary pictures on a tele-screen. The movements of the ball are calculated by an electronic instrument. It takes account of the angle at which the ball rebounds, the energy consumed by each bounce, the gravitation exelted on the ball and a few other physical laws which the little ball obeys. The trajectory of the ball is calculated so quickly from these data that the beam projected by the image of the ball on the screen is never for a moment in doubt about the next move.
How do professional conjurers put it? "The hand is quicker than the eye!" In other words, speed gives the illusion of magic.
Speed is the biggest advantage the electronic computers have. You will become increasingly aware that their other talents are by no means as revolutionary as you might have supposed. But their speed ...! There are machines that need only a ten-millionth of a second for a counting operation. Can you imagine that in your mind's eye? No one can.
On the other hand, you will certainly be able to understand why industrial enterprises and offices in which a lot of counting has to be done are making more and more use of these electronic devices. Factories entrust them with the control of their productions, banks with their bookkeeping operations, mercantile firms with the supervision of their buying and selling, stockkeeping and accountancy. Following the Industrial Revolution, the way is being prepared for an Electronic Revolution. There are great undertakings today that have all their bookkeeping work carried out by electronic computers. These machines work more quickly than an office - full of skilled employees - and not only more quickly, but over the long run more cheaply too. Of course, they cost a great deal of money to buy in the first place, but ultimately they are more profitable to run than a couple of dozen employees who draw salaries, expect a Christmas gift, and on top of that make mistakes now and again. An electronic computer is practically infallible.
Scientists are most enthusiastic about automatic calculators. For instance, some kinds of chemical and technical experiments only give worthwhile results if they are constantly observed and measured. But how, in the name of the great Edison, can the course of an experiment be measured if it lasts only a split second?