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What does the word "increments" mean in the following sentence?

The programmer spent many months making an algorithm to map our world in 20-foot-square increments.

I looked up the word in dictionaries, but couldn't find any helpful meanings.

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    Please include the definitions that don't match, and why you don't think they're correct. "Increment" seems a good fit to me.
    – gotube
    Jul 5 at 22:49
  • Pieces, chunks. Jul 6 at 20:31

4 Answers 4

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Lexico "increments":

An increase or addition, especially one of a series on a fixed scale.

Therefore it means the programmer is building the world one "block" at a time, in this case a 20 foot by 20 foot square.

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| |
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---

 _   _
| | | |
 -   -

---

 _   _
| | | |
 -   -
 _
| |
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---

 _   _
| | | |
 -   -
 _   _
| | | |
 -   -

The algorithm will "place" these 20 foot square blocks one at a time to build the entire world!

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The programmer spent months writing an algorithm to map the world in (very many very small) 20-foot-square patches.

"Increments" might not be the right word here, though it's understandable. It would be correct if the algorithm added the patches to the map one at a time - that is, incrementally.

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    "In _ increments" seems fine to me
    – DialFrost
    Jul 6 at 7:36
  • Increments is a better choice than patches, in my opinion. Jul 6 at 12:50
  • @MikeBrockington Perhaps. I agree that "patches" is not good, but "increments" suggests something sequential that may not describe how the algorithm actually works. Jul 6 at 14:36
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    @EthanBolker it could, OTOH, be a perfect description of the process, adding 20-ft squares one-by-one to a map/database, perhaps in a process that looks rather like rastering
    – Chris H
    Jul 6 at 15:12
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It means that the map is constructed from squares 20 feet on the side. It may additionally mean that he extended the algorithm by squares of that size over the multiple-month interval, but that is not clear from the context.

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"Pieces" would be a synonym for "increments" in this case.

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  • In this case I guess "pieces" would be a less precise term. Being a programmer myself, I guess if the text uses the word "increment" it probably wants to highlight the fact that these pieces are generated/calculated/modeled/(whatever) incrementally (i.e. in some sort of sequence dictated by the algorithm). The term "pieces" doesn't necessarily express this nuance. Jul 6 at 14:25
  • "Pieces" can be created sequentially and be precisely incremented. "Pieces" does not rule out being the exact same size and shape, in my opinion. A molding machine creates thousands of precisely, perfectly copied parts. Nobody calls those parts "increments" because "pieces" isn't precise enough.
    – user8356
    Jul 6 at 15:01
  • On a slightly more technical angle, I might expect to see the word "Tiles" used, if that was the intent. Jul 7 at 12:19
  • @user8356 As I said, this is about a computer science/programming/algorithm thing, not manufacturing. I assure you that in those contexts often "pieces" is a much more general term than "increments". For example, parallel algorithms may generate "pieces" of something in a non-sequential fashion. When a programmer says "increment"/"incremental" he/she very often implies some sequential process. I have rarely seen the term "pieces" used in a programming context like this. Jul 8 at 6:30
  • The result is a "map" according to the original post (the algorithm "maps" the world). We are therefore discussing sections of a map. In that context, "pieces", "slices", "sections" and similar terms are surely applicable, as much as "increments". Just my opinion, I doubt there's a wrong answer here.
    – user8356
    Jul 8 at 13:09

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