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Computer in which continuously variable physical quantities, such as electrical potential, fluid pressure, or mechanical motion, are used to represent (analogously) the quantities in the problem to be solved. The analog system is set up according to initial conditions and then allowed to change freely. Answers to the problem are obtained by measuring the variables in the analog model. Analog computers are especially well suited to simulating dynamic systems; such simulations may be conducted in real time or at greatly accelerated rates, allowing experimentation by performing many runs with different variables. They have been widely used in simulating the operation of aircraft, nuclear power plants, and industrial chemical processes. See alsodigital computer.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on analog computer, visit Britannica.com.