Types of Analog Computers

Slide rules are one type of analog computer
••• slide rule precision image by PeteG from Fotolia.com

Analog computers, unlike their digital counterparts, measure computations in completely analog ways. While a digital computer uses binary, the language of ones and zeroes to display digital increments, analog computers use physical phenomena to represent computations. This broad definition leaves room for a myriad of different devices with a variety of purposes, though they fall into two primary categories; mechanical and electrical. The advent of digital computing has left the long history of analog computers mostly forgotten.

Slide Rules

One of the simplest and most recognizable mechanical analog computers is the slide rule, a device for approximating basic mathematical calculations. Users slide a hashed rod to line up with various markings on another rod, and read the device based on the lineup of various hash marks.

Differential Analyzers

Another famous mechanical analog computer, the differential analyzer, was able to solve differential equations. With designs as old as the early 1800s, the differential analyzer was refined in the 1930s, and saw use through the mid twentieth century. The machines were large in comparison to modern computers, filling a desk sized space.

The Castle Clock

The Castle clock is a good representation of the various uses for mechanical analog computers. Al-Jarazi invented this famous computer, which was capable of saving programming instructions. The eleven foot high device displayed the time, the zodiac, and the orbits of the sun and moon. The computational portion of the device allowed users to set the variable length of the day based on the current season. Described in 1206, the computer was very complex for its period.

Electronic Analog Computers

Modern analog computers use electrical signals flowing through various resistors and capacitors to simulate physical phenomena, rather than the mechanical interaction of components. The voltage of the signal provides the pertinent readouts or displays. Electronic analog computers saw wide use in computing and military technology throughout the middle portion of the twentieth century, in such capacities as missile and aircraft testing.

Related Articles

Types of Sensors & Actuators
Mini Projects in Electronics and Communication Engineering
How Does a Wattmeter Work?
Science Discoveries of the 70s
How Fast Do Segways Go?
History of the Pendulum
What Is a Stand Alone Calculator?
How to Use a Multimeter for the Beginner
Cons of the Telegraph
How to Read Oscilloscopes
What Is Hertz in Electricity?
How to Calculate the Lineal Footage of a Circle
A History of Computers for Kids
Different Kinds of Geometry
History of the Audio Amplifier
How to Calculate Military Time
Characteristics of Aquatic Plants
How to Make a Simple Remote Control Car
What Is the Difference Between a Windmill & a Wind...
What Are Printed Circuit Boards Used for?

Dont Go!

We Have More Great Sciencing Articles!