Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 5

analog computer - Background, Mechanisms, Components, Limitations, Current research, Practical examples, Real computers, Reference

special systems mechanical electrical

Computers which accept, as inputs, continuous electrical or mechanical variables (such as voltage or current or the rotation rate or position of a shaft) and respond immediately to calculate relevant output signals. The processing is generally done by special electrical circuits, usually operational amplifiers, or by complex mechanical arrangements of gears, cogs, etc. Examples range from the automobile speedometer to the anti-aircraft ‘predictors’ of World War 2. Analog computers are inherently real-time systems, and continue to find special purpose applications, particularly in control systems, although many of their former tasks are now done using the much more versatile digital computers.

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