A computational model is described in which the sizes of variables are represented by the explicit times at which action potentials occur, rather than by the more usual 'firing rate' of neurons. The comparison of patterns over sets of analogue variables is done by a network using different delays for different information paths. This mode of computation explains how one scheme of neuroarchitecture can be used for very different sensory modalities and seemingly different computations. The oscillations and anatomy of the mammalian olfactory systems have a simple interpretation in terms of this representation, and relate to processing in the auditory system. Single-electrode recording would not detect such neural computing. Recognition 'units' in this style respond more like radial basis function units than elementary sigmoid units.