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27380Re: Analog Computers - General description (long)

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  • s100doctor
    Sep 8, 2012
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      --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, "Dave" <dave.g4ugm@...> wrote:
      >
      > I have never used an analog computer in anger but I was taught to use them
      > as part of my Mathematics degree in 1972/3 and latterly I am part of the
      > team that maintains and demonstrates the Hartree Differential Analyzer at
      > the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester England. If you have browser
      > other than IE you can see a flash video of the Hartree here:-
      >
      > http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~chl/hartree.html
      >

      I'm really pleased, as an engineers of the 1970's, to see a brief presentation of mechanical analog (differential) computers in the MARCH discussion. This is truly "lost technology" by my standards and I'm glad it's getting support in the UK.

      To answer the original question, about the nature and use of electronic analog computing. If you are interested enough, obtain some books on the subject from the era. Many engineering books about analog computing are available cheaply from Amazon - cheaper than those books on eBay that aren't listed by title, in order to sell them at higher prices. In addition, you can get many of those same books by loan through your local library, from university collections. That service is called "interlibrary loan" and you can talk to your local library about that service.

      While it's fun to talk about these things and discuss questions and answers thru email - it's more PRODUCTIVE to do the homework of reading the available literature, and that means paper books. They won't be available for many years longer; that's another discussion. They were designed to explain the use of these analog computers, to people would use them "in anger" as the poster described. You will need to understand differential equations, just as any binary programmer of microcomputers needs to understand Boolean logic and binary arithmetic.

      But differential equations STILL describe processes and model systems, from chemical to economic, that are still modeled today. These machines can STILL do some "work" that means something. They won't play Adventure, but you can have an adventure in learning about and using them.

      Herb Johnson
      retrotechnology.com
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