[SIGCIS-Members] Analogue vs. Digital

Pierre Mounier mounier at msh-paris.fr
Wed May 19 05:24:14 PDT 2010

Thanks a lot, Paul, Aristotle and Iannis ! That's very helpful.
Yes, Lang's lively paper survived all filters.

In return, a small picture of a 1950 Analogue Computer (SEA OME-P2),  
which was recently restored and listed among French Industrial  
Heritage items:

Pierre. Mounier-Kuhn

Le 19 mai 10 à 13:37, Paul Edwards a écrit :

> James Small's dissertation did finally get published as a book:
> The Analogue Alternative: The Electronic Analogue Computer in  
> Britain and the USA, 1930–1975 (Routledge, 2001).
> It's a terrific book and the only thing of its kind about computers  
> (stops in 1975, as the title mentions, though). Unfortunately it is  
> insanely expensive - well over $100, and not many used copies  
> floating around.
> A couple of chapters were published as stand-alones in the IEEE  
> Annals of the History of Computing.
> Other resources:
> Mark Bowles, "U.S. Technological Enthusiasm and British  
> Technological Skepticism in the Age of the Analog Brain"  (IEEE  
> Annals)
> Lang, "Analog was not a Computer Trademark! Why Would Anyone Write  
> About Analog Computers In Year 2000?," Sound and Vibration (August  
> 2000, attached to this email if the attachment survives the filter)
> Paul
> <Lang 2000 Analog Was Not A Computer Trademark.pdf>

> On May 19, 2010, at 4:46 AM, Aristotle Tympas wrote:
>> Hi Pierre,
>> A welcomed addition to the history of the analog-digital  
>> relationship is
>> that by Charles Care, who defended his dissertation at the  
>> University of
>> Warwick in 2008. Care integrates this history into the history of
>> modeling. You may also want to check relevant articles in Care's  
>> webpage
>> at the University of Warwick.
>> David Mindell's 'Between Human and Machine' is, in my opinion, a  
>> must for
>> those who want to study this relationship. But it is focused on an  
>> earlier
>> period than the one that your student is interested in and it is more
>> focused on on-line computing (computing as integrated into
>> control-regulation). The dissertation by James Small (part of which  
>> made
>> it to articles in the 'Annals of the History of Computing' and  
>> 'History
>> and Technology', one in each) is more relevant in regards to  
>> period. For a
>> suggestive study on the social meaning of analog technology from a  
>> context
>> other than computers, I would recommend the book 'Analog Days: the
>> invention and impact of the moon synthesizer' (by Trevor Pinch and  
>> Frank
>> Trocco, 2002).
>> A wonderful but extremely demanding theoretically book on the
>> analog-digital relationship from the early 1970s (1972) was written  
>> by
>> Antony Wilden (System and Structure: Essays on Communication). I  
>> thought
>> of it upon reading your email because it follows this relationship in
>> contexts of  some relevance to what we now call neurobiology.
>> Because of your student's chronological focus, I would also suggest
>> looking at the understudied history of hybrid analog-digital computer
>> structures. For my own try at briefly introducing this history in the
>> context of an encyclopedic entry, see Aristotle Tympas, ‘Computers:
>> Hybrid’, in Encyclopedia of 20th –Century Technology, Colin Hempstead
>> (editor), Routledge, London, Great Britain, 2005, 202-204. Also,  
>> for a
>> survey of some preceding works on the history of analog computing,  
>> you may
>> see the references in Aristotle Tympas, ‘Computers: Analog’, in
>> Encyclopedia of 20th-Century Technology, Colin Hempstead (editor),
>> Routledge, London, Great Britain, 2005, 195-199.
>> I hope this helps,
>> Telly
>>> Hello,
>>> One of our students is studying the early use of electronic  
>>> computers
>>> in neurophysiology, and has hit upon a 1967 controversy between
>>> Experimental/ Analogue and Digital approaches, when DEC LINCs were
>>> installed. What reading would you recommend on this topic ?
>>> (I remember James Small addressed this controversy in his
>>> dissertation, some 20 years ago - and so did, more recently, Paul
>>> Edwards in "The Closed World")
>>> Thanks !
>>> Pierre Mounier-Kuhn
>>> CNRS & Université Paris-Sorbonne
>>> 28 rue Serpente, 75006 Paris

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