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NEAC-R3 Analog Computer, owned by Osaka University, certified as information processing technology heritage

2019-4-5(Fri)

The NEAC-R3 analog computer from Nippon Electric Company, Limited (NEC) (manufactured in 1958) owned by Osaka University was certified as an information processing technology heritage by the Information Processing Society of Japan (IPSJ). Its certificate award ceremony was held on Friday, March 15.

This computer will be on to display at the IT Core Annex of the Cybermedia Center as an invaluable piece of material in the study of the history of the development of computer technology in Japan. Osaka University plans to maintain this computer for many years to come in order to pass it down as a historical product from which people of future generations can learn.

Overview of the NEAC-R3 Analog Computer

An analog computer is a calculator that was primarily used for geometric solutions of “differential equations.” Differential equations are used to describe tides and other natural phenomena which change with the passage of time and objects deformed due to applied force. The NEAC-R3 analog computer solves these equations by relating them to the strength of electric signals, displaying them on the screen of a cathode-ray tube (CRT) or plotting them in ink.

The equations are solved by computers programmed by a patch board comprised of integrators, accumulators, and counters, whose setup is customized according to the equations to be solved. Varying voltages in integrated circuits, which represent the variables of the equation, are recorded. The NEAC-R3 analogue computer is composed of operational amplifiers, the patch board, and a CRT display.

The concept of general-use analog computers was known in the first half of the 20th century, but the performance level of vacuum tubes at the time was too low to be used for operational amplifiers necessary for electronic devices. Thus, mechanical analog computers such as differential analyzers were developed first. However, methods enabling operational amplifiers using vacuum tubes were established in the 1940s, spreading electronic analog computers in no time.

The NEAC-R3 analogue computer, which can be called the culmination of technology of early vacuum tube-based analog computers, is designed to be able to handle general differential equations, including non-linear ones.

When semiconductors were commercialized in the 1960s, transistors became integrated into analog computers; however, digital computers developed in the 70s were far superior to analog computers, driving the latter out of the market.

Year of Manufacture: 1958 / Manufacturer: Nippon Electric Company, Limited (NEC)
Owner: Osaka University

(Source: IPSJ “Information Processing Technology Heritage” 2018-19)

For more information on IPSJ and Information Processing Technology Heritages, click here. (link in Japanese)

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IPSJ Chairman NISHO Shojiro grants the certificate

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Exterior of the NEAC-R3 Analog Computer

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