Susan Stepney.
Introduction to Unconventional Computing.

in Eduardo Reck Miranda, ed, Guide to Unconventional Computing for Music, chapter 1, pp.1-21, Springer, 2017


Before we start examining unconventional computing, it is useful to contrast it with conventional computing, also called classical computing, or Turing computing.

Convention is what is generally done, here: designing an algorithm that instructs the computer in precisely what it should do, one step at a time acting on digital data, to produce a well-defined output; coding that algorithm in a programming language like C or Python; running that program on typical commercial computer hardware such as a PC, tablet, smartphone, or even a supercomputer accessed through the cloud; and viewing the output as text or images.

Unconventional computing (UComp, also called non-standard computing) challenges one or more of these conventions. There are many aspects to challenge, and so there are many forms of UComp. The mathematician Stanislaw Ulam said:

using a term like nonlinear science is … like referring to the bulk of zoology as the study of non-elephant animals.

Campbell et al. (1985)

The situation is analogous for UComp: one can argue that it is a much broader domain than conventional computation, although admittedly less deeply explored. In this chapter, we focus on three main areas of UComp:

  author = "Susan Stepney",
  title = "Guide to Unconventional Computing for Music",
  pages = "1-21",          
  crossref = "UCompMusic-2017"

  editor = "Eduardo Reck Miranda",
  title = "Guide to Unconventional Computing for Music",
  booktitle = "Guide to Unconventional Computing for Music",
  publisher = "Springer",
  year = 2017