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MACHINE-READABLE. A term in COMPUTING meaning ‘in a form that can be accepted by a machine, and particularly a computer’. Traditionally, this has meant that a TEXT is coded for electronic use, keyed into a computer, and stored on a laser disk or a magnetic tape, as for example when a paper DICTIONARY is converted to machine-readable form; currently, however, text on paper, either printed or typewritten, can be regarded as machine-readable if it can be processed (‘scanned’) on to a laser disk by an OCR (optical-character recognition) system (an optical scanner). In addition, because of developments in PRINTING and publishing, dictionaries and other works now generally are prepared directly on computer, so that machine-readable forms of books and other documents exist before any paper product is produced. With a machine-readable text, CONCORDANCES can be quickly produced, showing each occurrence of every word in context. The Oxford Text Archive serves as an international co-ordinating point for the effort to accumulate material in machine-readable form.
machine translation The use of computers in translating from one natural language to another. This was originally a branch of artificial intelligence research, but commercial translation systems are now used regularly in professional translation bureaus. Fully automatic translation is not achievable but human post-editing can give acceptable results.
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