Amazing Places You Will Find Computers at Work

Author : Guest Blogger
Date : October 7, 2018

Computers really are everywhere these days!  They’re even hiding in places we’d never expect to find them.  People have embedded computers into tractors, refrigerators, and even toilets.  Plus there’s all kinds of awesome technology that makes it easy for us to take computers with us on our travels.  These include innovations like smartphones, smartwatches, and Google Glass.

What we’re going to take a look at here are some of the more interesting and unusual ways computers are being put to use.  Some of these are things you’ll already know about, but some may be quite surprising.  Take a look and see what you think.

1. Planes

This is an obvious category, but it has to be listed because computers now play such an important role in aviation.  This is especially true in the Airbus family of aircraft.  In fact, computers and automation are so much a part of the Airbus, that a common saying is that pilots learn to fly a Boeing jet, but they learn to program an Airbus.  This is what the cockpit of an Airbus A380 looks like:

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As you can see, there is so much computer technology in here, there’s hardly room for anything else.  The main part of the computer system is inside that big box between the two pilot’s seats.  These are the FMGS (Flight Management & Guidance System) computers, and there are two of them, just in case one fails.

At the top, all the way along the length of the windshield, is the autopilot system.  This lets the pilots tell the computer to fly the plane by itself for a while.  All the pilot needs to do is enter what direction (heading), how high up (altitude), and how fast (air speed), and the computer will fly whatever is set.

Below the autopilot, on a section called the console, you can see the primary flight displays and upper ECAM display.  Below that, at the top of the pedestal, you can see the DCDU (Data Control & Display Unit) screens and the lower ECAM display.

In the center of the pedestal are the thrust levers, and in the Airbus, they use an auto-thrust system, so even these levers are computerized.  On either side of the levers are keypads for communicating with the FANS (Future Air Navigation System), which is a special SMS-style device for communicating with air traffic controllers via text messaging.

Finally, below the FANS keyboards, you can see the most important part of the FMGS, which is a computer interface called the MCDU (Multipurpose Control & Display Unit).  The MCDU is the main interface for programming the FMGS.

2. Trains

You may not think so now, but driving a train is quite a demanding job.  Drivers have to make sure that passengers are delivered safely and on time.  But in some places, where there are not thought to be many hazards that would require human intervention, trains are automated and don’t have human drivers.  Some people are upset about this because they think it could make the trains less safe, and they also worry about somebody losing their job to be replaced by a machine.

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3. Automobiles

Trains aren’t the only land vehicles being automated, and while most “driverless cars” are still considered to be experimental vehicles, it’s still possible to see them on public roads in some areas.  These cars aren’t really safe enough yet, and there have been some notable crashes, including some where people were killed.

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A variation on the driverless car concept is where the car is fitted with an “autopilot” system, as is the case with the Tesla Model S.  With these cars, the driver is expected to remain fully alert and ready to take over control at any moment, however in practice it would be really difficult for anyone to stay alert in those conditions.  You already know how easy it is to fall asleep in the car on a long journey.

In May 2016, the first fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S operating in autopilot mode occurred.  This happened because the robotic sensors in the car failed to detect a white truck in bright sunlight, and the human driver wasn’t paying attention, possibly even being asleep.

Automated cars are a good idea, but unless everyone has one, and they’re all able to communicate with each other, such cars can be considered to have a high risk factor, simply because the computers that drive them are too capable of making mistakes.  In the future, when technology has evolved better and the cars are affordable enough for anyone to buy, this technology may save a lot more lives than it takes.

4. Racing Cars

Formula One racing is an exciting sport, and one of the things which has helped to make it even more exciting in modern times is computer technology that helps drivers and engineers to get even more speed, control, and safety from the cars.

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Firstly, computers aid in the design of the car.  Engineers can run simulations and do modeling of different scenarios to predict performance.  During practice and racing, the cars are also equipped with a wide range of sensors which provide a lot of feedback to help calculate what improvements could be made on each lap.

5. Automated Seed Planting

Planting crops used to be a time-consuming and difficult job.  But now, thanks to GPS and robotics, farmers can get their crops planted for them by an automated system. There are also many other ways that technology and robotics are making a difference to modern farming.

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6. Bomb Disposal

Bombs are really bad things.  Robots that help get rid of bombs are good things.  Soldiers and police try to use robots to disarm and dispose of explosives whenever possible, but sometimes a human still needs to do the job.  When a human does go to disarm a bomb, they wear so much padding it makes them look like robots anyway.

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