# What does the word "increments" mean here?

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.

• 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

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.

`````` _
| |
-

---

_   _
| | | |
-   -

---

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

---

_   _
| | | |
-   -
_   _
| | | |
-   -
``````

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

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.

• "In _ increments" seems fine to me 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
• @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 Jul 6 at 15:12

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.

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

• 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. 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. Jul 8 at 13:09