A Modular Analogue Computer

We are all used to modular construction in the analogue synth world, to the extent that there’s an accepted standard for it in EuroRack. But the same techniques are just as useful wherever else analogue circuits need to be configured on the fly, such as in an analogue computer. It’s something [Rainer Glaschick] has pursued, with his Flexible Analog Computer, an analogue computer made from a set of modules mounted on breadboard strips.

Standard modules are an adder and an integrator, with the adder also having inverter, comparator, and precision rectifier functions. The various functions can be easily configured by means of jumpers, and there are digital switches on board to enable or disable outputs and inputs. he’s set up a moon landing example to demonstrate the machine in practice.

We’re not going to pretend to be analogue computer experts here at Hackaday,but we naturally welcome any foray into analogue circuitry lest it become a lost art. If you’d like to experiment with analogue computing there are other projects out there to whet your appetite, and of course they don’t even need to be electronic.

20 thoughts on “A Modular Analogue Computer

  1. This kind of analogue skill is already well on its way in becoming a lost art. It is already a problem finding good integrated circuit engineers…

    Two things I like in this design:
    – It’s all jelly-bean.
    – The calibration method (after the fact calibration – so elegant in its simplicity).

    1. There’s no need for analog electronic anymore. We live in age where $25 Raspberry Pi has computing capacity biliards of thousands times higher than first digital computers created during Apollo program. Pretty much any problem can be solved with clever coding.

      1. Make a 20kV power supply with 1Vpp ripple that can deliver up to 1mA. Or charge an electric car at super speed turbo charging speed. Not really possible without great understanding of analog electronics.

        There are quite a few high end things where you cannot get away with just throwing cpu/fpga power at a problem, and actually need to solve it analogue.

        1. I’m still waiting to see if analogue electronics will have an FPGA like advancement. Before FPGAs and similar devices digital electronics were made of discrete components or ASICs, then with FPGAs it can all be done in a single reconfigurable chip. Analogue electronics are still done in discrete components for the most part, so a single reconfigurable device might be very useful, especially for the likes of analogue computers.

      2. Our world is analog and connecting with it and accurately measuring it still requires analog. Besides we are just one EMP away from returning to an analog world. Probably someone said 2000 years ago, ” who needs that Antithykera clock… I have just invented more accurate charts drawn with quill pens made from goose feathers…. I shall call it Gaggle Maps !” 😂

      3. You do know that digital “components” are made up of analogue components? No analogue components…no integrated circuits. The universe is unfortunately analogue only…

      4. Sure, you can do everything with an SBC costing 25 bucks running a whole operating system and a clever program. With some super clever coding, you might even be able to split a voltage in two! Or you know, you can use two .5 c resistors to make a voltage divider. But now you’re doing analog electronics, which you said isn’t needed anymore…

      5. There is no digital, there is only analog.

        You can define VCC as 1 and 0V as 0, but VCC and 0 V they remain.

        ‘Digital electronics’ are just cookbooking EE. To be competent you need to know the limits and be able to fall back to analog thinking.

        Intel had their CPU external bus stuck at 25 MHz of years (late 386/early 486 era) for lack of one competent RF analog guy on their chipset/motherboard team. They had a 90 degree group turn in their bus traces and didn’t understand it was a problem…It worked fine a 8MHz.

    2. I don’t think analog will become a lost art. After all somebody has to design all these integrated smart sensors. So there will always be competent analog designers.

      Allthough there are much more people who use these chips than people who design these chips.
      But if you think about it that is how it should be.

      I just think that we now also need good “system engineers” who can use the chips we analog designers build for them.

      PS: Yeah, +1 for the jelly bean parts

        1. AI will increase the need for analog devices if anything. Otherwise you’re going to have a difficult time creating AIs that can actually interpret their surroundings and environment to do anything beyond existing in a box in the desk.

      1. 100% correct…but the engineers that do it well, are getting less-and-less, with seemingly no replacements. The more of those analogue skills we loose, the more difficult it will be to develop new integrated circuits (analogue and digital).

        You also mention something else that is important – the “system” engineers, who for probably the same reason, are only good at sticking blocks together (analogue skill also dwindling). There seem to be this misconception that human knowledge and technology is substituent. If you don’t understand steam tech from 100+ years ago, you are not going to build a nuclear power station…

        Something else I like about the analogue computers (the one above excluded), is their continuous operation, and not interval-based like digital. There are still control systems that need this kind of “no latency” processing.

  2. There were pots, op amps, etc. potted with banana jacks and plugs that would plug together that I remember that were old when I went to Purdue 50 years ago. Well made but in the junk box back then. I have a pot in that series and still use it.

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