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Care, Charles
Publisher: University of Warwick. Department of Computer Science
Languages: English
Types: Other
Subjects: QA76
The users of analogue computing employed techniques that have important similarities to the ways scientific instruments have been used historically. Analogue computing was for many years an alternative to digital computing, and historians often frame the emergence of analogue computing as a development from various mathematical instruments. These instruments employed analogies to create artefacts that embodied some aspect of theory. Ever since the phrase 'analogue computing' was first used in the 1940s, a central example of analogue technology has been the planimeter, a nineteenth century scientific instrument for area calculation. The planimeter mechanism developed from that of the single instrument to become a component of much larger and more complex instruments designed by Lord Kelvin in the 1870s and Vannevar Bush in the 1920s. Later definitions of computing would refer to algorithms and numerical calculation, but for Bush emphasis was placed on the cognitive support provided by the machine. He understood his 'differential analyser' to be an instrument that provided a 'suggestive auxiliary to precise reasoning' and under the label 'instrumental analysis', classified all apparatus that 'aid[ed] the mind' of the mathematician. Rather than placing emphasis on automation, Aan analogue computer provided an environment where the human investigator was far more involved in the computation process. This paper will argue that the analogue computer can usefully be considered as a scientific instrument. The role of the analogue computer as a scientific instrument will be investigated from the perspective of the users' techniques and applications. The study will particularly focus on the users' approach to the planimeter, the differential analyser and the electronic analogue computer.
  • The results below are discovered through our pilot algorithms. Let us know how we are doing!

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