AKAT-1: A Stunning Retrocomputer
By James Grahame
I so want this for the corner of my office. The base looks like an old metal desk from my primary school, and it definitely belongs on a Constellation class starship. When anybody asks, I'll solemnly explain, "It's the first transistor-based differential equation analyzer, from 1959. And it's Polish." They'll nod in befuddlement and ask if it can play Spacewar, which of course it can't.
AKAT-1 is an analog computer. Back in the 1960s, this approach offered speed and acceptable accuracy without the complexity of digital logic.The result was a device that could solve relatively complex differential equations in real time, as long as you weren't after precise values. Alas, time has passed it by and it now leads a life of leisure at the Museum of Technology (Muzeum Techniki) in Warsaw, Poland.
It's easy to dismiss analog computing as a dead end on the evolutionary tree of computational science, but countless analog music synthesizers remain sought-after for their warmth and instantaneous response. And, yes, each and every one is a real-time analog computer.