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Early Analog Computers in Sweden -- With Examples From Chalmers of Technology and the Swedish Aerospace Industry

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129964D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 13 page(s) / 53K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

MAGNUS JOHANSSON: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

One of the first times the word matemarilmaskiner (mathematical machines) was presented to the Swedish audience was in 1939 in an issue of Teknisk Tldskrifr, a newsletter published by the association of Swedish engineers. The article was written by Stig Ekelof, who was professor of theoretical electricity at Chalmers University of Technology (CTH) in Gothenburg, Sweden, from 1943 to 1970. Ekelof spent a year in 1938 as scholar at MIT and Harvard University. He wrote enthusiastic reports home on the need for Sweden to take part in the development of computer technology. It was about ";time that we got a mechanical 'differential analyzer,"; Ekelof exclaimed.

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Copyright ©; 1996 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Early Analog Computers in Sweden -- With Examples From Chalmers of Technology and the Swedish Aerospace Industry

MAGNUS JOHANSSON

This paper gives a short overview of early analog computing in Sweden in the 1940s and 1950s. Being a small country, Sweden tried to catch up with the development of computing that had been going on in the United States and elsewhere during World War II, and in the 1950s Sweden was pioneering this technology. By the late 1960s, Sweden was one of the most computer-intensive countries, with a successful domestic computer industry. Unable to maintain a sustainable general computer production, some small sectors of Swedish computer R&D have prospered. In the concluding remarks, I suggest that the concept of "technological niches" is a useful tool, both analytically and for technology policy-making.

Introduction

One of the first times the word matemarilmaskiner (mathematical machines) was presented to the Swedish audience was in 1939 in an issue of Teknisk Tldskrifr, a newsletter published by the association of Swedish engineers. The article was written by Stig Ekelof, who was professor of theoretical electricity at Chalmers University of Technology (CTH) in Gothenburg, Sweden, from 1943 to 1970. Ekelof spent a year in 1938 as scholar at MIT and Harvard University. He wrote enthusiastic reports home on the need for Sweden to take part in the development of computer technology. It was about "time that we got a mechanical 'differential analyzer," Ekelof exclaimed.

But this was not the first time analog calculating devices were mentioned in Sweden. In June 1930, Teknisk Tidstrifr presented an articles Charles Gewertz wrote in which he discussed the method of solving electrical engineering problems with the help of the "integraph." And in February 1935, electrical engineer Enar Eskilsson discussed "mechanized solving of differential equations" on the MIT "differential analyzer" built by Vannevar Bush. Eskilsson gives a rather detailed mechanical description of the analyzer and mentions that it had been in use for some three years but was still subject to improvement. The analyzer had so far been quite unique, he continued, but four similar machines were then being built, one of them in Norway, to serve researchers in the Scandinavian countries (see the article "Svein Rosseland and the Oslo Analyzer" in this same issue).

Both Ekelof's and Eskilsson's articles stress the importance of new and more efficient ways of handling engineering and scientific calculations. In this article I wish to present some early Swedish attempts at procuring and building mathematical machines, before the first commercially available digital computers made their entrance on the Swedish market in the mid 1950s.

Ekelof's First Presentation in 1939

In h...