The Analogue Alternative: The Electronic Analogue Computer in Britain and the USA, 1930-1975, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Analogue Alternative

The Electronic Analogue Computer in Britain and the USA, 1930-1975, 1st Edition

By James S. Small


340 pages

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We are in the midst of a digital revolution - until recently, the majority of appliances used in everyday life have been developed with analogue technology. Now, either at home or out and about, we are surrounded by digital technology such as digital "film," audio systems, computers and telephones.

From the late 1940s until the 1970s, analogue technology was a genuine alternative to digital, and the two competing technologies ran parallel with each other. During this period, a community of engineers, scientists, academics and businessmen continued to develop and promote the analogue computer. At the height of the Cold War, this community and its technology met with considerable success in meeting the urgent demand for high speed computing for use in the design and simulation of rockets, aircraft and manned space vehicles.

The Analogue Alternative tracks the development, commercialisation and ultimate decline of the electronic analogue computer in the USA and Britain. It examines the roles played by technical, economic and cultural factors in the competition between the alternative technologies, but more importantly, James Small demonstrates that non-technical factors, such as the role of "military enterprise" and the working practices of analogue engineers, have been the most crucial in analogue's demise. This book will be of interest to students of the history and sociology of science and technology, particularly computing. It will also be relevant to those interested in technical change and innovation, and the study of scientific cultures.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Analogue Computing Devices in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries 2. The Origins, Form and Function of Electronic Analogue Devices and Computers, 1937-1950 3. Electronic Analogue Computer Development, 1945-1955: Military Programmes, Aeronautics and Electronics 4. Commercialisation, Hybridisation and Competition: the Electronic and Hybrid Computer Industry in the USA, 1945-1975 5. The Origins, Commericialisation and Decline of Electronic Analogue and Hybrid Computing in Britain, 1945-1975 6. Electronic Analogue Computers and Engineering Culture 7. Negotiating a Place for Electronic Analogue Computers: the Analogue Versus Digital Debate. Conclusion.

About the Author

James S. Small has worked as a researhcer and lecturer at the University of Manchester in England and at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Studies in the History of Science Technology and Medicine aims to stimulate research in the field, concentrating on the twentieth century. It seeks to contribute to our understanding of science, technology and medicine as they are embedded in society, exploring the links between the subjects on the one hand, and the cultural, economic, political and institutional contexts of their genesis and development on the other. Within this framework, and while not favouring any particular methodological approach, the series welcomes studies which examine relations between science, technology, medicine and society in new ways, e.g. the social construction of technologies, large technical systems.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
SCIENCE / History