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Hydraulic Analog Computer From 1949

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the upper-decker dept.

Hardware Hacking 184

mbone writes "In the New York Times, there is an interesting story about a hydraulic analog computer from 1949 used to model the feedback loops in the economy. According to the article, 'copies of the 'Moniac,' as it became known in the United States, were built and sold to Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, Ford Motor Company and the Central Bank of Guatemala, among others.' There is a cool video of the computer in operation at Cambridge University. I remember that the Instrumentation Lab at MIT still had an analog computer in its computer center in the mid-1970s. Even then, it seemed archaic, and now this form of computation is largely forgotten. With 14 machines built, it must have been one of the more successful analog computers — a supercomputer of its day. Of course, you have to wonder if it could have been used to predict our current economic difficulties."

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Explosives factories (4, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198067)

Some explosives factories still use hydraulics, steam or vacuum for process control. Although it tends to be digital now, with valves used as flip-flops.

Re:Explosives factories (5, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198201)

Some explosives factories still use hydraulics, steam or vacuum for process control. Although it tends to be digital now, with valves used as flip-flops.

Furthermore, the factory itself can be considered as a digital information storage system.

The problem is returning to the current state after it flips to the other one.

Re:Explosives factories (1)

Jamamala (983884) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198517)

The problem is returning to the current state after it flips to the other one.

Damn you entropy!

Re:Explosives factories (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198979)

Don't be shy to say it, a factory is a 1-bit PROM. Perhaps one day, a socially challenged but otherwise very friendly hacker will try to become immortal by writing "HELLO WORLD" into such memory, but no one will understand him, as usual. :-(

Re:Explosives factories (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28198261)

Some normal, non-explosives factories do, too. Except in their case, it's because they're too cheap, too lazy or too incompetent to upgrade properly. Obviously, the US is losing mfging because the Chinese are cheating. Obviously. But more generally, pneumatic circuits that use some logic aren't uncommon on a small scale. Stuff like safety interlocks (e.g., cyl 1 is extended, so can't extend cyl3 which would collide).

Re:Explosives factories (4, Informative)

Keruo (771880) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198977)

Upgrade properly to what? Hydraulics is the most accurate way to control movement.
If your application needs force with direction and accuracy, then your only real choice is to use hydraulics.

Don't confuse modern hydraulic systems with something that just has few handvalves.
Almost every system we deliver these days comes equipped with computer controlled digital valves which you can use to control pressures at 0.01 scale from 0 to 500+ bar(depending on customer specs naturally), and can be integrated into factory networks seamlessly.

[disclaimer, I have bias on this subject since I work at one of the largest suppliers of hydraulic systems in the world]

Re:Explosives factories (2, Interesting)

Prune (557140) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199575)

BS. Piezo systems are immensely more accurate--they're used for atomic force microscopes, for example. Of course, the range of motion is very limited, but your claim was _unqualified_ -- you wrote "the most accurate way to control movement". Make outrageous claims--get shot down! You should have known better, considering you're not new around here.

Re:Explosives factories (3, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199071)

Indeed, when it comes to anything safety crtical KISS is a good principle to follow as it will make it much easier to ensure safety.

Blowing a circuit - with air (4, Interesting)

diodeus (96408) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198263)

In college I built a divide-by-eight counter in pneumatics. One reciprocating cylinder was the "clock" signal, the rest was a bunch of pneumatic shuttle valves. Problems arose because I kept needing to increase the air pressure to move some of the switches because they were spring-loaded. The air hoses started to pop off their fasteners so it took a lot longer to get the assembly working that I had anticipated (talk about blowing a circuit). It did manage to get me an exemption from the rest of the labs though.

Re:Blowing a circuit - with air (2, Funny)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198589)

In college I built a divide-by-eight counter in pneumatics.

It would be more impressive if you could build a divide-by-zero counter. :-D

(Almost) seriously though, this contraption rocks! A few more gear-wheels and this just might make a perfect steampunk computer... ;-)

Computers can't model macroeconomics (5, Interesting)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198117)

There is a serious flaw in thinking that computers can accurately model macroeconomics, or predict systematic collapses, any better than commonsense and basic logic can. It is a given that if you massively inflate the monetary supply, you will create a false sense of wealth and a false understanding of risk, and people will malinvest in sectors that they otherwise would have spent far less resources on, or none at all. This is an unsustainable artificially created bubble, and all bubbles burst. Many people saw this coming years, even decades ago, and didn't have supercomputers. People understood this scenario centuries ago, before computers even existed. Using computers as a crutch to make up for a lack of understanding of basic economics is an aggravating factor in the current scenario, not the solution.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28198453)

"What the hell can go wrong with lending $500,000 for a house to someone who's salary is only $20,000 per year?" - Brainless Banks

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (4, Insightful)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198511)

There is a serious flaw in thinking that computers can accurately model macroeconomics, or predict systematic collapses, any better than commonsense and basic logic can

It might not be an accurate descriptive model (one that describes reality), but discriminative models are very useful -- not to predict systematic collapses, but to discriminate irrational behavior. Computers step in when your response time has to beat efficient markets. You could be a common sense and logic genius, but you can only apply those rules and react in so much time, and computers will always beat you for speed at applying your own rules. So it's a different kind of crutch, and just like a crutch, it can help you walk better, not walk for you.

I might have digressed from TFA, but this is /.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (1)

Prune (557140) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199655)

From my point of view, grandparent was a troll. Browsing through his history, he's clearly one of the well-known types of people that disparage the utility of computers in scientific endeavours for anything more than basic calculation. I know a few examples in real life, such as a microbiologist who thinks that any computer-based "encroachment" into his field, from simulation to DNA microassays, is the sheerest garbage (to borrow the infamous phrase uttered by a skeptic in the early days of application of group theory to physics).

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (2, Funny)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198561)

There is a serious flaw in thinking that computers can accurately model macroeconomics, or predict systematic collapses, any better than commonsense and basic logic can. It is a given that if you massively inflate the monetary supply, you will create a false sense of wealth and a false understanding of risk, and people will malinvest in sectors that they otherwise would have spent far less resources on, or none at all. This is an unsustainable artificially created bubble, and all bubbles burst. Many people saw this coming years, even decades ago, and didn't have supercomputers. People understood this scenario centuries ago, before computers even existed. Using computers as a crutch to make up for a lack of understanding of basic economics is an aggravating factor in the current scenario, not the solution.

Yeah, but if I can program a fly on the wall to recognize speech on the NYSE trading floor, and whenever it hears the words "The payoff is greater than the risk. Even the big guys are doing it like crazy. What's the worst that could happen?" then it sets off an alarm and shoots every Fortune 1000 controller in the face with a lethal stream of sulphuric acid... not only could I predict these things over a year before they happen, but after the two or three are predicted, I'm sure it would be at least 20 years before anything like this happens again... in the NYSE.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (4, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198563)

There is a serious flaw in thinking that computers can accurately model macroeconomics, or predict systematic collapses, any better than commonsense and basic logic can.

Are you saying that human irrationality is defined by something other than the laws of physics, genetics, and chemistry?

If we are to believe that the universe does have a set of laws applied to it, then by understanding those rules can lead to models that will predict otherwise seemly irrational universe.

You just have to have the right model and a computer powerful enough to compute all the date required to get something use.

And you have to sometimes build something as big as the LHC [wikipedia.org] to figure what model you should use.

To assume that this cannot assumes that universe does not have rational rules and is ruled by something else like a supernatural force.

Like you know... Like a Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198655)

I think it's not so much that it can't in theory be modeled, as that in practice it's extremely hard---much harder than modeling the weather, which we can barely do accurately out to 5 days. There's somewhat of a gap in expectations when you go from high-level qualitative descriptions of phenomena, like hurricane experts discussing trends in intensity and formation basins, to an implemented, detailed computational model that purports to simulate what "really" happens. The 2nd one usually diverges extremely quickly from what actually does happen, because these sorts of nonlinear systems are very sensitive to slight errors in the model or its initial conditions.

That's fine, as long as people understand its use and limitations; but there's a tendency, especially among the only-sort-of-technical folks who are involved in a lot of areas of business and economic policy, to trust these computer models as more than they are, as if the fact that a "computer simulation" told you it makes it some sort of neutral third-party truth that represents the state-of-the-art in guessing what will happen.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28199101)

You are right.
People will not understand that this hidraulic system does not models the Federal Reserve nor the fractionary reserve system, among other very important things.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (4, Insightful)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199307)

It's worse than that, actually. Weather prediction is at least based on physical processes, which, allowing for some minor concessions to quantum mechanics, are based on fundamental particles which follow deterministic rules. Given all the initial conditions and sufficient computing power you could accurately simulate what the weather will be at any point in the future. Moreover, you can use simulations to predict how that future weather will change in response to deliberate artificial influences; weather doesn't have goals of its own, and won't actively resist attempts to control it.

Economics isn't like that. The "fundamental particle" of economics is people, and people are adaptive. Under many conditions is it possible to predict how they will behave--assuming rational self-interest (i.e. sanity) and decent psychological models of their personal value scales--but all that breaks down when someone attempts to use the models to control the outcome. At that point you have a competition between the people being studied, who seek to achieve their original goals and thwart any attempt at outside control, and those seeking to do the controlling. As with any long-running competition between creative individuals, the outcome is impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199401)

Yeah, that's true; and an addition complication for anything long-term is the lack of any significant amount of data. With the weather, you can try to build, say, hurricane models by feeding data about hundreds of hurricanes, and thousands of other "negative" examples of weather patterns from which hurricanes didn't form. Then prediction models can try to find regularities among those data sets.

With economies we just don't have that much data. If you want to predict a major recession and recovery, for example, we have good data on, something like 4 or 5 of them--- and they happen in totally different eras, among radically different social and governmental backdrops, and are of different kinds. It'd be roughly like trying to build hurricane-prediction models with a sample of one Gulf hurricane, one east-coast Atlantic hurricane, one Hawaiian hurricane, and two southeast Asian hurricanes--- all from different decades and of very different magnitudes. With a data set like that, your hurricane model would not be good; and our recession-prediction models aren't, either.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (3, Informative)

OwnedByTwoCats (124103) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198717)

There are some fundamental limits to what models can predict. If a model demonstrates extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, then any deviation between actual and measured initial conditions will cause the output of the model to deviate from actual at an exponential rate.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198751)

Modelling the economy is more difficult than most other modelling tasks because everyone is trying to do it. Every single actor in the system has their own model, of varying quality, which governs how they interact with it. When you build a better model of the economy, you have an advantage over the other players and so can make more money, which alters the economy. An accurate model which no one acts on is possible, but an accurate and useful model needs to be sufficiently complex to model itself and all of the other players. Or, to put it another way, needs to be more complex than itself. That's not to say that you can't build a partially-accurate and still useful model, of course.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (3, Informative)

wjwlsn (94460) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198923)

Your post reminds me of a quote from Gordon Box that I often relate to new trainees: "All models are wrong, but some are useful."

I don't think this modeling difficulty is unique to economics. (You didn't state or imply that it was... I just wanted an excuse to quote Gordon Box.)

I like your characterization of the problem though. It applies to pretty much any complex system.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199129)

"The U.S. government pays its debts" is a model. I wonder if it will stay accurate.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (2, Interesting)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199281)

If we are to believe that the universe does have a set of laws applied to it, then by understanding those rules can lead to models that will predict otherwise seemly irrational universe.
It is not feasible to make a perfect simulation of the universe since that it would require a computer more complex than the universe (and therefore unable to exist in our universe) to run and require information that the heisenberg uncertainty principle makes impossible to obtain as an initial state. Even if we could we would have to deal with quantum effects which as far as we can tell so far seem to be random.

So instead of a perfect simulation we have to settle for models based on approximations of reality and imperfect initial conditions. Combine error buildup from the approximations in the model with a chaotic system and you will find that beyond a certain distance out it is not possible to make meaningfull predictions

To assume that this cannot assumes that universe does not have rational rules and is ruled by something else like a supernatural force.
or just good old randomness.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (4, Interesting)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198619)

Spot on. I saw this mechanical computer on TV years ago, they were talking about how it was a noble attempt to model the economy but it's just too complicated an organism to be modelled by any means, to say nothing of a mechanical device. Sometimes the economy reacts differently when you poke it the same way depending on a myriad of other factors.

Another example is traffic. Some people assume that traffic can be modelled like water in pipes. "Road is congested? Make it wider and the congestion will ease." What they don't realise is that motorists are more intelligent than water particles. They can be aware of a widening of the pipes/roads and choose to go into a system at a certain point at a certain time to take advantage of the widened road, with the net result of a road that's just as congested at 4 lanes wide as it was at 3 lanes wide. There's also the matter of being able to move one's home to a different location along the road to avoid congestion. Others follow suit, and the congestion is back to where it was. Want to model that using water in pipes? Good luck!

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (5, Funny)

zindorsky (710179) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199275)

What they don't realise is that motorists are more intelligent than water particles.

Says you.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (1)

CanadaIsCold (1079483) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199679)

Computers are never a solution to lack of knowledge although they can help us manage larger datasets in an efficient way. What it comes down to is the current state of economic theory is not sufficient to model macroeconomics. Some day these theoretical models may improve in which case computers are a great tool for managing what will be a large and complex dataset. To in any way suggest that the current macroeconomic models are anything other than predictive is a lie. So basically it's a choice of where to spend your research money and we should be spending on Economics if we want the model to improve not Comp Sci. Although I think there is plenty of Comp Sci work left to be done, which can be a benefit to multiple disciplines rather than an individual one.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (2, Funny)

gilroy (155262) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199757)

Some people assume that traffic can be modelled like water in pipes. "Road is congested? Make it wider and the congestion will ease." What they don't realise is that motorists are more intelligent than water particles.

Also, when you treat traffic as a compressible fluid, you get 20-car pile-ups, because cars aren't compressible... or at least, they're not uncompressible afterwards...

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (3, Insightful)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198679)

It doesn't take a computer to predict what happens. You get a boom, people spend money, they overspend, you get a crash. Repeat. The details vary, but the basic pattern seems pretty clear.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28199471)

But it does take a computer to figure out where you are in the cycle, and where to invest given where you are in the cycle. That is, if your goal is to make money. Alternatively, a large government might be able to figure out how it can act to turn the wild roller coaster ride, into a Sunday drive.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28198761)

I don't see how anything you've said implies that computers can't model macroeconomics. The kind unstable behaviour you're describing certainly limits the accuracy, but instabilities can definitely be predicted too. It's not as futile as you seem to be making out.

Also, people's sense of wealth and understanding of risk isn't something that should need to be modeled, those two things would be something that you would infer from the results/state.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (1)

Fungii (153063) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198789)

I don't see how anything you've said implies that computers can't model macroeconomics. The kind unstable behaviour you're describing certainly limits the accuracy, but instabilities can definitely be predicted too. It's not as futile as you seem to be making out.

And another thing - people's sense of wealth and understanding of risk isn't something that should need to be modeled, those two things would be something that you would infer from the results/state.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28198893)

I don't know, I'd venture a guess that that machine could do a better job setting interest rates then the fed has.

Re:Computers can't model macroeconomics (3, Insightful)

Tokolosh (1256448) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199093)

All you need is the Micawber Principle:

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

From David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens

ya gotta be kidding! (1)

macbeth66 (204889) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198147)

Of course, you have to wonder if it could have been used to predict our current economic difficulties."

You didn't need a computer to tell you the current economic mess was coming. It was obvious something big was coming by the end of the year. Of 2007, that is. They were giving mortgages to people that wouldn't have allowed to rent.

Re:ya gotta be kidding! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28198195)

LOL wake up sheeple.

END THE FED!

Re:ya gotta be kidding! (1)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198699)

Yea, because without them there wouldn't be any economic problems at all. The way I'm leaning is, you can try to mitigate the worst effects of market fluctuations, but you're not going to get rid of the boom-crash-boom cycle without doing something pretty fundamental about human psychology.

Re:ya gotta be kidding! (2, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198543)

1998, you mean. There was a reason they had all those banking rules developed over centuries, You can't just wipe them out with a stroke of a pen, and expect no consequences.

        Brett

Perhaps it used the wrong working fluid (4, Funny)

OolimPhon (1120895) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198151)

It might have been more successful if they had used beer instead of water...

Re:Perhaps it used the wrong working fluid (1)

ufoolme (1111815) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198873)

It might have been more successful if they had used beer instead of water...

freaking genius

Hot and cold running money! (4, Interesting)

thewiz (24994) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198165)

Wow! Great article about it in Wikipedia. Loved the picture that showed the two faucets on the side.

Re:Hot and cold running money! (2, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198411)

Yeah, the WP article is much more informative than the video. The guy in the video spends the first minute kind of standing there saying "now what I'm going to do..." without actually doing anything. The next two and half minutes aren't much better.

Gack... troll in summary... must resist... (4, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198181)

Dammit. Couldn't resist.

Of course, you have to wonder if it could have been used to predict our current economic difficulties.

No, you don't have to wonder that. The current economic difficulties were easily predicted by many.

The problem was that the people with any kind of ability to stop the conditions that led to the current situation were those who profited most from those conditions. Not a good recipe for prevention.

Re:Gack... troll in summary... must resist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28199591)

there is also the problem with qualifications to invest. basically you just have to have money, if it is someone else money then they may require you to have good sense or at least the appearance of good sense but they are asking you to invest so likely they are not very good with investing and have little idea of what it takes to be a good investor. take for example day traders they don't look for overall long reaching good performing companies but rather short term fluctuations in the perceived value of a company. When SCO started its lawsuit their share price jumped some people saw validity in the lawsuit others saw the rise in stock price and held the stock long enough to profit and got out before everyone realized they were blowing hot air. So back to the current problem in the end everyone saw that it was working the day before and saw no real reason why it should not work the next day and this is how they got their credibility by following the crowd like lemmings right off the cliff.

What economic assumptions is it using? (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198219)

What are the underlying economic premises of this machine? I cannot discern this from its diagram or descriptions, but it just looks wrong to me.

Re:What economic assumptions is it using? (1)

MrMr (219533) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199301)

The machine is based on the principle that you cannot create an infinite amount of water from nowhere.
Any modern banker will be able to explain you that that assumption is incorrect in the case of money.

Re:What economic assumptions is it using? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28199441)

What are the underlying economic premises of this machine? I cannot discern this from its diagram or descriptions, but it just looks wrong to me.

It's a series of tubes.

Wierd! Just read Terry Pratchett's (2, Informative)

bareman (60518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198247)

I just finished with Terry Pratchett's "Making Money". I think I'm having a flashback now.

Re:Wierd! Just read Terry Pratchett's (1)

emudoug42 (977380) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198637)

I love it when I read about some bizarre contraption in the discworld books only to discover later that it's based on some bizarre contraption in reality.

Re:Wierd! Just read Terry Pratchett's (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198775)

And this is why you should always read the author's note at the end, where he mentions all of the things that he based inventions in the book on. You also get fun things like, in the end of Nation, an explanation of thinking, followed by 'do try this at home'

Another resource too... (2, Informative)

DrYak (748999) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199681)

The Annotated Pratchett File [lspace.org] has also interesting resources to help grasp to more obscure jokes.

Hanz and Franz... (1)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198293)

are here to *Pump* you up!!

A hydraulic computer did model the economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28198315)

... in Terry Pratchett's book Making Money. There was such a computer in the basement of the bank in Ankh-Morpork.

I wonder if Terry knew about the one in TFA.

Making Money [wikipedia.org] wiki article.

Re:A hydraulic computer did model the economy (1)

Pembers (250842) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199477)

Since there's a note from Pratchett at the start of the book saying, "There's a machine very much like bank's computer in the Science Museum in London," I'd say yes, he did know about it.

A funnel can model "current economic difficulties" (3, Insightful)

shadowofwind (1209890) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198321)

If lots of people are extracting money from the system and not contributing real wealth, then there will be problems. Money has complicated dynamics, but its not magic. People who make a living shuffling numbers around in spreadsheets are providing a useful service that makes the system more efficient. But only up to a point. Few people believe greed is a vice anymore, hence certain results follow.

Used in fighter planes (5, Informative)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198323)

Hydraulic computers are used in some military aircraft because they are very reliable and can withstand EMP.

Re:Used in fighter planes (2, Funny)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198727)

... but not an ice storm.

Re:Used in fighter planes (1)

neomagus00 (1049532) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199635)

[Citation needed]

This sounds cool, any examples?

language (1)

jsnipy (913480) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198331)

That's pretty slick considering the times ... Hydro-functional programming :)

Discworld anyone! (1)

DadLeopard (1290796) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198337)

Seems Terry Pratchett is ahead of /. on this issue as one of his characters in "Making Money" uses just this type of Analog Computer to model the money flow in the novel! Though since magic doesn't work in this universe, ours' don't have the same effect!!

Re:Discworld anyone! (4, Interesting)

SteveAstro (209000) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198861)

You'll actually see TP give due acknowledgement to the Phillips Economic computer, Moniac, at the front of the book.

As a result of reading Making Money, I tracked down the prototype, which is in the foyer of the school of management at Leeds University in the UK, and now have the job of rebuilding Phillips very first machine.

Steve

The Real Question (1)

Razalhague (1497249) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198405)

Can I duplicate this in Dwarf Fortress?

Memory Leak (5, Funny)

SubjectiveObjection (1541619) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198415)

"Johnny, there's another damn memory leak! Bring the bucket!"

Yes! (1)

drewsup (990717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198435)

But will it run hydraulic Linix

Predict the economic trouble today? (2, Interesting)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198459)

Probably not, but Byron Dorgon Predicted this trouble in 1995 when teh derivatives markets starte to get noticed and again in 1998 when the "securities modernization act" was passed, deregulating the banks, insurance companies and investments firms.

Re:Predict the economic trouble today? (4, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199173)

Probably not, but Byron Dorgon Predicted this trouble in 1995 when teh derivatives markets starte to get noticed and again in 1998 when the "securities modernization act" was passed, deregulating the banks, insurance companies and investments firms.

As we say in Economics circles: "Yes, the man is a genius: he predicted 9 of the last 3 recessions!"

If we would have stayed with this technology... (5, Funny)

sootman (158191) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198463)

... the Internet truly would be a series of tubes.

Also, little known fact: Gordon Moore's father was a mechanical engineer who predicted that the size of hydraulic valves would shrink 50% every 18 months.

But Can it run Windows 7, Aquatic Edition? (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198481)

Or does Moniac not have enough *chuckle* water pump cycles to run Crysis at 1800x1200?

God, sometimes I hate myself.

=Smidge=

pneumatic computers exist too (4, Interesting)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198519)

In class I built a half-adder and a full-adder and could do 2 bit addition with it. subtraction too if I interpret input and output as 2s complement numbers. I ran out of parts in my kit to make it bigger. but with enough parts you could do pretty much anything, as long as you don't mind the slowness and noise and possibly a tremendous amount of power.

hydraulics have the advantage that you can apply a great deal of force through them precisely. which is useful when you have many layers of "logic gates" that you have to drive by pushing a fluid through some tubes. with pneumatics I could have quickly ran into an issue if I made a ripple counter for example where the amount of pressure necessary to switch the furthest most element might exceed the abilities of my pump.

Your Signature (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28198731)

"You know why there's a Second Amendment? In case the government fails to follow the first one." -- Rush Limbaugh

Like Rush Limbaugh knows ANYTHING about the first Amendment.. being a consistent agitator for the Christofascist wing. Quoting Rush Limbaugh to try to support a freedom is like quoting Kim Jong Il to support sanity.

Re:pneumatic computers exist too (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198947)

In pneumatics you can use "pilot valves" to amplify your digital signals back up to full strength. I needed some fairly strong pneumatic (signals) to switch fairly quickly, the only valves on the market that would do it used pilots.

Re:pneumatic computers exist too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28199051)

hydraulics have the advantage that you can apply a great deal of force through them precisely. which is useful when you have many layers of "logic gates" that you have to drive by pushing a fluid through some tubes. with pneumatics I could have quickly ran into an issue if I made a ripple counter for example where the amount of pressure necessary to switch the furthest most element might exceed the abilities of my pump.

They used to call this tab-out. That's where fan-out comes from.

Re:pneumatic computers exist too (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199321)

This should be a solved problem. I don't know the terminology or component in pneumatics or hydraulics. In electronics, you add an inverter or a buffer, to use a weaker signal to control larger currents. You don't power following transistors using the output of a previous transistor, each one is connected to the power rails and are controlled by input.

Obligatory (1)

mandark1967 (630856) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198553)

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these!

Yeah...but can it run Linux?

(with the obligatory troll post about the level 5 dwarf maintaining my OS in at least one of the replies)

How many LOCs can this thing hold?

Didn't I see that thing in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

That sbout cover them all?

Re:Obligatory (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198857)

No, you forgot:

"There's a world market for maybe 14 hydraulic computers."

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28199085)

I, for one, welcome our ___________ overlords...

modeling current economic woes = attach a balloon (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28198567)

Modeling the current economic woes? Just attach a balloon in the appropriate place.

When it bursts, there'll be a big mess to clean up and it'll take a while.

also explored by air force for emp resistance (1)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198573)

I recall reading , many years ago in a magazine like popular science, that the air force was exploring analog computers for use in fighter jets; the rationale was that analog computers would be resistant to the electromagnetic pulse (emp) emitted by a nuclear blast; jets with analog computers could keep flying...

Hydraulic Computers (4, Funny)

thethibs (882667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198597)

Which gave rise to one of the oldest computer jokes: "If it doesn't work, piss on it."

Not that I would start a new slashdot meme... (0, Offtopic)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198623)

But do you think this analog technology might explain or predict why Bing is pointless?

Trend setting (3, Funny)

DrugCheese (266151) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198635)

This was water cooled before water cooling was cool

Not quite (4, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198739)

With 14 machines built, it must have been one of the more successful analog computers

 
In the early 80's the USN had over 30 analog computers driving various submarine simulators. Heck, each of the original '41 SSBN's had an analog computer driving the hovering system. Then there was the 100+ analog installations of the CONALOG system.
 
Etc... Etc...

Re:Not quite (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198897)

Every B29 built during WWII had four analog fire control computers. US WWII subs used analog computers to generate torpedo firing solutions. Surface ships used them to direct their guns.

Re:Not quite (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199361)

US WWII subs used analog computers to generate torpedo firing solutions

Yep - and the analog descendants of those didn't start to be replaced with all digital systems until the 1970's. The last of those descendants didn't leave service until Kamehameha and her MK113 were decommissioned in 2002.

Re:Not quite (2, Informative)

Nimey (114278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199601)

Also the famous Norden Bombsight, the most accurate in the world at the time, was an analog computer.

Cool differential equation engine in action (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198777)

That's pretty cool, and a little steampunk. Is it just me, or was that thing wheezin' like an iron lung in the video?

Re:Cool differential equation engine in action (1)

Garridan (597129) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199457)

No, you cad, this is not steampunk. Correlation is not causation: this is history. Steampunk is a fictional genre that romanticizes the period in history that this real machine came from. Moreover, the thing appears to be made of plastic -- I'm betting that if some steampunk fanboi built one of these today, they'd use a metric fuck-ton of brass, and it'd have pointless dials and knobs out the wazoo.

Article has inventor name wrong. (1)

Gouru (1568313) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198797)

Article has it wrong though, claims some unknown named 'Philips' invented the glooper. We all know it was Hubert.

14 machines? One of the more successful? ROFL (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198801)

EAI sold more than 500 of their 1952 16-231R model alone.

Re:14 machines? One of the more successful? ROFL (1)

S-100 (1295224) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199327)

Heathkit sold two different analog computers: the EC-1 and H-1. They were sold for educational purposes rather than any practical application, but I'd suspect that they out-sold any other analog computers (with the possible exception of military applications of analog computers in artillery or bomb sights).

Yep (4, Funny)

madnis (1300099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198807)

Shows that our economy is down the drain.

I think simple addition and subtraction (1)

Xonstantine (947614) | more than 5 years ago | (#28198849)

was all that was necessary to predict our current economic crisis.

Scaled-Simulation versus Computer (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199049)

The boundary between "analog computer" and "scaled simulation" seems rather fuzzy. I suppose the more it physically resembles the original (but smaller), the more it's a simulation rather than computer. But many of these old devices seem a mix, and thus the classification is multi-pronged.

Poor Ted... (1)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199121)

Water flows through a series of clear pipes

If only this article came out a few years earlier, maybe we wouldn't have given him so much crap!

Sure we could have used it to predict it (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199151)

But given its speed, the result would have been available by 2012.

Memristor as analog computation (1)

bmacs27 (1314285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199185)

It seems to me that the modern equivalent would be the memristor discovery discussed here many times before. I think it might revive analog computation as it carries with it the capacity for continuous physical states.

An idea 60 years too late... (1)

Onyma (1018104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199251)

Adding a little bit of dye to the water would make that thing a lot easier to read! (probably just a shortcoming of the demo video)

Other Great Analogue Computers (2, Informative)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199559)

What about The Great Brass Brain? An analogue computer for computing tide tables that when replaced by a CDC 6600 super (for its time) computer, the 6600 couldn't perform all of the tricks (i.e. pause at each low/high tide moment or produce a continuous) graph of the machine it replaced? There's some great, mostly lost, history out there.

A five year old with an abacus and 20 minutes (2, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#28199581)

Could predict todays our current economic difficulties and spend 18 minutes playing with the abacus.

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