In the eyes of the general public, the computer has changed from a remote and recalcitrant source of error on monthly bills to a friendly and increasingly common household appliance.Time magazine, which names a “Man of the Year,” in 1982 named the computer instead, and The New York Times runs a weekly computer column. With the popular press full of the subject, it hardly seems necessary to tell an audience of physicists that a computer consists of a central processing unit, a high‐speed memory, mass‐storage disks and so on. A large fraction of the total number of scientists active in research or development have ready access to computers. I can safely assume that my readers have some level of familiarity with the basic operation of modern computers and with a few uses of computers in their fields of specialization. In this article, then, I will address a set of topics of special concern to physicists in the hope that doing so will stimulate further discussion. One indisputable fact is that the presence of computers will continue to expand in our science as in the rest of our lives, and some thoughtful reflection on where we are going and how we shall get there should be time well spent.
While physicists debate which computer language is best and which computing philosophy is right, they are busy using computers to study subjects ranging from quarks to models of the Universe.