Analogue Computer Essay

3390 words - 14 pages

ANALOG COMPUTERAn analog computer is a form of computer that uses the continuously changeable aspects of physical phenomena such as electrical, mechanical, or hydraulic quantities to model the problem being solved. In contrast, digital computers represent varying quantities symbolically, as their numerical values change. As an analog computer does not use discrete (exact) values, but rather continuous (approximate) values, processes cannot be reproduced with exact equivalence, as they can with Turing machines.Analog computers were widely used in scientific and industrial applications where digital computers of the time lacked sufficient performance. Analog computers can have a very wide range of complexity. Slide rules and nomographs are the simplest, while naval gunfire control computers and large hybrid digital/analog computers were among the most complicated. Systems for process control and protective relays used analog computation to perform control and protective functions.SETUPSetting up an analog computer required scale factors to be chosen, along with initial conditions-that is, starting values. Another essential was creating the required network of interconnections between computing elements. Sometimes it was necessary to re-think the structure of the problem so that the computer would function satisfactorily. No variables could be allowed to exceed the computer's limits, and differentiation was to be avoided, typically by rearranging the "network" of interconnects, using integrators in a different sense.TIMELINE OF ANALOG COMPUTERSPRECURSORSThis is a list of examples of early computation devices which are considered to be precursors of the modern computers. Some of them may even have been dubbed as 'computers' by the press, although they may fail to fit the modern definitions.Many mechanical aids to calculation and measurement were constructed for astronomical and navigation use. The planisphere was a star chart invented by Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī in the early 11th century. The astrolabe was invented in the Hellenistic world in either the 1st or 2nd centuries BC and is often attributed to Hipparchus. A combination of the planisphere and dioptra, the astrolabe was effectively an analog computer capable of working out several different kinds of problems in spherical astronomy. The sector, a calculating instrument used for solving problems in proportion, trigonometry, multiplication and division, and for various functions, such as squares and cube roots, was developed in the late 16th century and found application in gunnery, surveying and navigation.The Antikythera mechanism is believed to be the earliest mechanical analog "computer", according to Derek J. de Solla Price. It was designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was discovered in 1901 in the Antikythera wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, between Kythera and Crete, and has been dated to circa 100 BC. Devices of a level of complexity comparable...

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