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Analog Computer Summary

Computer using continuously changeable aspects of physical phenomena (electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, etc.) to model problems, behavior of other physical system, or mathematical function

Analog computer

An analog computer or analogue computer is a type 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 values, but rather continuous values, processes cannot be reliably repeated with exact equivalence, as they can with Turing machines. Unlike machines used for digital signal processing, analog computers do not suffer from the discrete error caused by quantization noise. Instead, results from analog computers are subject to continuous error caused by electronic noise. 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 nomograms 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. The advent of digital computing made simple analog computers obsolete as early as the 1950s and 1960s, although analog computers remained in use in some specific applications, like the flight computer in aircraft, and for teaching control systems in universities. More complex applications, such as synthetic aperture radar, remained the domain of analog computing well into the 1980s, since digital computers were insufficient for the task.

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