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Issue No. 04 - April (1996 vol. 29)
ISSN: 0018-9162
pp: 55-62
<p>Are computers displacing people? Are they more capable than us? . . . more efficient? These questions have discomfited many people since the emergence of ENIAC in the 1940s. Cartoonists, with their long tradition of poking fun at our foibles, soon pounced on this new phenomenon, lampooning and satirizing our responses to "intelligent machines." The "computoon" was born. An examination of computoons published from 1940 to the present reveals several continuing themes: computer pretensions, a concern for computer accuracy, and the evolving nature of robots. Cartoonists have used many situations to ponder the question of whether computers--and especially robots--are similar enough to humans that we should view them as competitors for what we see as our exalted position in the scheme of things. And machines as pretenders to the throne can be portrayed whimsically or with varying degrees of paranoia. Of course, computoon themes have numerous subthemes. Around 1970, these subthemes began to change, with some fading and others becoming dominant. As more people--cartoonists included--started interacting with computers, the concerns in computoons became more specific, and technical jargon made its way into the mainstream. Gradually, the computer became part of the landscape, a common fixture in cartoons and not necessarily essential to the joke. Although intelligent machines have now become indispensable partners in many facets of our lives, for many people the relationship is uneasy. As long as technology continues to run ahead of our ability to adapt, cartoonists will find humor, absurdity, and pathos in our efforts to keep pace. </p>

F. H. Grupe, "Computoons: The Evolving Image of Computers in Cartoons," in Computer, vol. 29, no. , pp. 55-62, 1996.
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