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The past several years have seen a marked expansion in computer applications in geology. Universities, governmental agencies, the oil industry, and the mining industry all share in this activity. Although much work is still research-oriented, increasing effort is being made to extend computer facilities to exploration for oil, gas, and ore. Five aspects of computer utilization are woven through this activity; these are data acquisition, data storage and retrieval, data processing, presentation of results, and use of decision functions as an aid to interpretation.
Data acquisition is represented by new instrumental ways of obtaining data automatically, including remote sensing devices. Storage and retrieval are perhaps best known in the oil industry's activity in developing well-information systems, although much interest also centers on machine handling of scientific bibliographies. Data processing is the most active aspect of machine use, with new computer programs being developed for statistical processing of data, systems analysis, linear programming, and various applications of operations research. Spectacular developments in presentation of map data automatically, and in machine analysis of maps for trends (regionals and residuals), have occurred in the past few years. Development of decision functions (related closely to operations resea ch) is evident, though perhaps less publicized than other aspects of computer utilization.
A major problem in this rapid expansion of computer use is the development of channels for publishing or exchanging computer programs. A center for earth science programs, tentatively called GEOCOMP, is being looked into. This center, whether located in a university, a research organization, or a governmental agency, could issue copies of programs, newsletters on current activities, and perhaps act as a training center for college teachers and geologists in industry. There is no doubt that computer activity in geology, which only a few years ago seemed still to be beyond the horizon, is now actively growing in our midst. Such rapid expansion calls for sound judgment in computer use, inasmuch as indiscriminate applications can produce very large mistakes very rapidly.
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