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Some Early Computers for Aviators

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129676D
Original Publication Date: 1991-Mar-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 21 page(s) / 73K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

PAUL MCCONNELL: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

During the years between the World Wars aviation became established as a credible form of transport. Airmail delivery and passenger service gained acceptance with the civilian population. While aircraft for observation, transport, and combat roles were adopted by military and naval forces. A prerequisite to routine air travel was the development of reliable methods of aerial navigation. In addition to new navigational techniques and instruments, numerous computational aids were developed to simplify the aerial navigator's work. Highly specialized computational aids were also developed to assist military aviators in performing aerial gunnery and bombardment. The following article describes a few of these devices, with special attention given to the mechanical analog computers used in military aircraft during World War II.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1991 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Some Early Computers for Aviators

PAUL MCCONNELL

(Image Omitted: Author's Address: 191 Thurman Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43206.)

During the years between the World Wars aviation became established as a credible form of transport. Airmail delivery and passenger service gained acceptance with the civilian population. While aircraft for observation, transport, and combat roles were adopted by military and naval forces. A prerequisite to routine air travel was the development of reliable methods of aerial navigation. In addition to new navigational techniques and instruments, numerous computational aids were developed to simplify the aerial navigator's work. Highly specialized computational aids were also developed to assist military aviators in performing aerial gunnery and bombardment. The following article describes a few of these devices, with special attention given to the mechanical analog computers used in military aircraft during World War II.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: K.2 [Computing Milieux]: History of Computing -- hardware. J 7. Computing Milieux]: Computer Applications -- other systems. General Terms: Design, Human factors. Additional Terms: Calculators, Aviation, Navigation, Bombsight.

Background

The fields of navigation and ballistics have historically influenced the development of computing machinery. Because of the enormous computational effort necessary to compile navigational and ballistic tables, both of these tasks were selected for early attempts at large- scale mechanization. On a smaller scale, mechanization was also applied to the practical side of navigational and fire control computation.

The advent of aviation introduced a new set of problems for navigators and armament specialists. Especially acute was the need for better ways of navigating heavier-than-air machines. Compared to sea-going vessels and lighter-than-air ships, heavier-than-air craft added the following constraints to the execution of the navigator's tasks:

Airplanes traveled at a relatively high speed. They were limited in their time aloft by the amount of fuel they could carry. They required specially prepared airfields for landing.

Although much marine navigation theory was transferable to aerial navigation (sometimes called "avigation"), shipboard practices were not always suitable for use in aircraft. The apparently simple task of reading a map, for example, was nearly impossible in the cramped, windy, open cockpit of an airplane traveling at 100 miles per hour. The traditional instruments of marine navigation also proved inadequate for aerial navigation. Both the magnetic compass and the marine sextant had to be modified for use in aircraft. Other instruments, such as the gyroscopic horizon, were entirely new and had to be developed without the benefit of prior...