As I understand, the concept 'computation' started dependent on hardware (like looms for instance).

The Hardware defines (physical cascades) what happens between input and output. I think I saw in a CS class, a mention about universal calculation where software is not limited by hardware?

It's hard to find a succint answer. What makes a universal calculator, universal?

(I'm not a CS major, so forgive my unprofessional terms and wordings) Thank you.

  • $\begingroup$ Read the article on Wikipedia. $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2016 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ This is not an issue of philosophy but hard mathematics sprinkled with conjecture. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Dec 3, 2016 at 11:24

1 Answer 1


I think you're asking about universal Turing machines? The machine is universal, in the sense that it can compute anything that any other Turing machine can compute. This is interesting is that Turing machines seem to be a very good model of what can be computed by physical devices, such as actual computers. In particular, we're not aware of any physical computation process (i.e., any mechanism we could use to build a computer) that can compute something that a Turing machine can't. So, in practice, the Turing machine is taken as the definition of what can be computed. (See also the Church–Turing thesis.)


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