Firstly, we must not forget that the computer was primarily designed as a means of storing data and solving arithmetic and logic problems. The development of the computer from these modest roots are the complex machines of today which allow us to store more information and work out more complicated problems in a way that would have otherwise been impossible. This affects our society in two way: On an individual basis it means that any person in possession of some kind of a computer has the capacity to store every document they will ever need in a single compact machine. This means the computer allows people to set up businesses and work form home on a scale never before seen, not to mention taking the human progress a step beyond that of the printing press by removing the need for hand writing for the first time in our history. On a larger scale, it allows scientific progress to accelerate as mathematical problems incomprehensible to humans can be worked out by simply programmed machines. The effect of computer storage capacity is to totally change how large scale businesses function, by assisting inventory management, and by facilitating and expediting the storage of data important to companies, for instance: Customer preferences or phone numbers.
Another result of computers is the rise of computer games. This has caused serious worries over how they affect those who use them, and especially their effects on young male men. The debate still rages over whether the large number of violent computer games available influences those who play to mimic such behaviour, with a host of scientific research being done on the issue. Yet almost as worrying are the statistics which seem hint at the highly addictive quality of such games - most notably internet based ones. In contrast many have begun to see the potential computers hold as a means of education, since , unlike other traditional forms of teaching utensil, computers game based learning has a propensity to entertain the student. Businesses and organisations are already using computers as educational devices, and as technology develops, especially in the field of virtual reality games, more shall surely follow. Whatever one's feelings on the growth of these video games, in both recreational and educational formats they are becoming ever more of a reality, with the United States military even using one such game as a recruitment device.
We must now consider the undeniable effect of the internet on societies worldwide - indeed, one of which could be said to be connecting and eliminating differences between geographically and culturally separated societies. The effects of the computer are still developing, nevertheless it is already obvious that they are sufficiently wide reaching to far surpass an answer of this length. I will attempt then to give examples of just a few, which I consider to successfully represent the nature of most of the computers' social implications, as well as the combination of positive and negative aspects which they contain.
Ultimately the internet is a means of communication. The result of this is to make learning democratic. At the click of a mouse anyone with a computer, regardless of their wealth, status, or education, can access a practically limitless supply of knowledge. A benefit of this is that with the correct internet know-how, one can find out almost anything in a matter of seconds, revolutionising for example the way people go about pandemic research. However, the same capacity for multiplying information which makes the internet great, also threatens whole industries as music, films and other forms of entertainment and information are released free of charge onto the web. Inevitably sales of CD's and DVD's have fallen as the use of the internet has grown, and indeed the speed of the world wide web's growth has made it nearly impossible for media companies to find ways of stemming the problem. Equally, in the same way that the internet gives every single person with a computer a voice with which they can share their thoughts and ideas with the world, so too has the number of offensive sites grown with the development of the internet. From pornographic sites to the more worrying cases of websites designed for the sharing of paedophilic materials, as well as racist and even terrorist supporting sites.
Similarly, the increasing popularity of social networking sites is a double edged sword. On the one hand it has allowed people to connect and communicate with each other with an ease and scale never before seen. At the most basic level this began with email, which alone can be seen as nearly equal to the invention of the telephone in terms of communication. Sites like www.facebook.com have more members than the average national population. The fact that the internet allows such forms of communication to be free makes it democratic. The potential of such sites to be used for the good of the people can be seen recently in the part played by Facebook in middle eastern uprisings of Egypt and Libya, when it was used by rebelling citizens as a way of coordinating strikes and marches. Yet equally there are many cases children being groomed by sex offenders through these websites.
All in all, the impact of the internet on society is undeniable. Whether it is always for the best is a whole other matter.