October 1996

Root Page of Article: Coming Out of the Closedt World, by John Horberg

Analog vs. Digital Computers

The Closed World contains an interesting history of the argument over the superiority of digital vs. analog computers. The ensuing battles for government contracts and other monetary resources should be interesting to rhetoric of science, or science and technology studies folks who are interested in the paths by which science and technology progresses.

Interestingly, Edwards portrays analog computers as potentially superior to digital computers for many of the tasks we really want computers for today. But in the end, digital computers were chosen precisely because they always gave a precise, repeatable, verifiable answer to a given problem. Unfortunately, many problem areas are intractable -- not amenable to a precise solution, or cannot be formulated into a proper digital algorithm that can be fed into a computer. ^

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