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From analogy-making to modelling : the history of analog computing as a modelling technology

By Charles Care

Abstract

Today, modern computers are based on digital technology. However, during the decades after 1940, digital computers were complemented by the separate technology of analog computing. But what was analog computing, what were its merits, and who were its users? This thesis investigates the conceptual and technological history of analog computing. As a concept, analog computing represents the entwinement of a complex pre-history of meanings, including calculation, modelling, continuity and analogy. These themes are not only landmarks of analog's etymology, but also represent the blend of practices, ways of thinking, and social ties that together comprise an 'analog culture'.\ud \ud The first half of this thesis identifies how the history of this technology can be understood in terms of the two parallel themes of calculation and modelling. Structuring the history around these themes demonstrates that technologies associated with modelling have less representation in the historiography. Basing the investigation around modelling applications, the thesis investigates the formation of analog culture.\ud \ud The second half of this thesis applies the themes of modelling and information generation to understand analog use in context. Through looking at examples of analog use in academic research, oil reservoir modelling, aeronautical design, and meteorology, the thesis explores why certain communities used analog and considers the relationship between analog and digital in these contexts.\ud \ud This study demonstrates that analog modelling is an example of information generation rather than information processing. Rather than focusing on the categories of analog and digital, it is argued that future historical scholarship in this field should give greater prominence to the more general theme of modelling

Topics: QA76
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2381

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