Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Emulator to translator...

Read the article: "Welcome to the everything emulator" from the UK newspaper The Guardian, about the effort to create a single emulator to be able to open any old archaic computer file from any old archaic application. Reading this made me imagine the process in fast forward... In the beginning it would simply be a composite program that had the ability to open any number of important document formats, MS Word documents from the start of Office, image files of all the important types, and so on. As more and more format abilities are added to the emulator's resume, more "judgment" will be required of it, possibly identifying what version of what application best displays a certain file or something like that. I can imagine some young ingenius programmer thinking, "Why hardwire this thing to recognize individual file formats and link them up with the appropriate display process... I'll just write something to peel back the code and pull out the content and display it how I wish." The ability to recognize patterns and interpret meaning out of an never-before-seen encoded file would be, I think, at least theoretically possible. But this led me mentally to the concept of the Universal Translator from Star Trek. If a system can be developed to pull meaning out of an electronic file regardless of when or where it was developed, perhaps language itself can be interpretted automatically. Hmmm... What do you think?

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