[SIGCIS-Members] Building an analog for class?/Thanks to list for prior help

Andrew Meade McGee amm5ae at virginia.edu
Tue May 13 20:34:11 PDT 2014

Dear David,

Thank you very much for the suggestion. I shall look into the
"Transactions" article right away and pass it along to my students.
Precisely the sort of direction I needed after realizing the task of wading
through the literature on analog computers. Looking forward to a history
class that involves a shopping trip to Radio Shack.

If you don't mind me praising your work to the list, I made good use of
excerpts from "When Computers Were Human" for my class. Amusingly, I
encountered unexpected outrage from the students when we got to the part
about Federal One and the 1930s Mathematical Tables Project. Washington and
Lee undergrads are a tad more conservative than the stereotypical college
student, and my pupils vociferously objected to the idea of FDR and Harry
Hopkins expending tax dollars to employ mathematicians and office clerks.
In their views, computation should be a strictly free-market proposition.


On Tue, May 13, 2014 at 10:08 PM, David Alan Grier <grier at gwu.edu> wrote:

> Andrew
> There are a lots of analog computers that one could build  Perhaps the
> simplest would be to use 741 op aps to solve differential equation
> problems.  They are not that hard to build if you have a circuits lab and
> know the basic of circuit theory.  Needless to say, the IEEE has a number
> of articles about how to build them.  For Example there is: IEEE
> for Electronic Engineering Education Andrew L. Fitch, Herbert H. C. Iu,
>   --------------------------------
> David Alan Grier
> Past President, IEEE Computer Society
> http://video.dagrier.net
> Center for International Science and Technology Policy
> George Washington University
> grier at gwu.edu
> On May 13, 2014, at 9:02 PM, Andrew Meade McGee <amm5ae at virginia.edu>
> wrote:
> Dear List Folks,
> First, a thanks and update. Last fall I e-mailed this list seeking input
> on course design for a four week computer history class and received many
> wonderful, instructive answers. Shortly after writing I was sidelined with
> some unexpected kidney surgeries and never got to respond with thanks. I'm
> all healed up now and am glad to report that the class is in progress and
> makes use of many group members' suggestions. It's going smashingly well.
> Which leads to another call for guidance: some of my students have
> expressed interest in building an analog computer for their final project,
> and have approached me because they can't find instructions on how to do
> it. I've scoured the web, and while I have access to plenty of 50s- and
> 60s-era textbooks on principles of analog computing, I can't seem t find a
> simple wiring schema/set of blueprints suitable for humanities undergrads
> with limited workshop experience.
> Have any of you ever had students build a simple analog computer? Any
> suggestions on guidance or instructions or templates I might provide the
> eager but inexperienced students?
> Thank you,
> Andrew
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