Computer, Analog (Encyclopedia of Science)
A digital computer performs calculations based solely upon numbers or symbols. An analog computer, on the other hand, translates continuously changing quantities (such as temperature, pressure, weight, or speed) into corresponding voltages or gear movements. It then performs "calculations" by comparing, adding, or subtracting voltages or gear motions in various ways. The final result is sent to an output device such as a cathode-ray tube or pen plotter on a roll of paper. Common devices such as thermostats and bathroom scales are actually simple analog computers: they "compute" one thing by measuring another. They do not count.
Early analog computers
The earliest known analog computer is an astrolabe. First built in Greece around the second century B.C., the device uses gears and scales to predict the motions of the Sun, planets, and stars. Other early measuring devices are also analog computers. Sundials trace a shadow's path to show the time of day. The slide rule (a device used for calculation that consists of two rules with scaled numbers) was invented about 1620 and is still used, although it has been almost completely replaced by the electronic calculator.
Modern analog computers
Vannevar Bush, an electrical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), created in the 1930s what is considered...
(The entire section is 358 words.)
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