As anthropologists become more and more accustomed to counting things and giving numerical statements concerning frequencies of behaviors, traits, and events, as well as computing expressions of the covariations among these cultural elements, the tasks of recording, storing, and analyzing these data become more and more complicated. Moreover, because we tend to be holistic in general orientation, we prefer to manipulate rather large numbers of different variables simultaneously. That is, none of us is particularly happy with the examination of individual cultural items, or pairs of items, torn out of the context of broad behavioral patterns to which they are related. Anthropological analysis usually involves a multivariable strategy.
Beyond a certain point the tasks of storing and manipulating these data become so enormous that we lose track of our materials, or our inventory and management of the data become overly cumbersome and time consuming. At some point in the growing complexity and perplexity we can save time and energy by turning to electronic computers for assistance.
Many people seem to react emotionally at the mention of computers. With some of our friends, the word “computer” brings an instant flush to the cheeks, a brightening of the eyes, slight dilation of the pupils, and a quickening of the pulse that signals excitement and enthusiasm. Other people we know tend to snort with contempt at suggestions of computerizing and thus “dehumanizing” the delicate art of data manipulation.