Skip to page 12 for some real fun. Philbrick must have owned stock in a battery factory.
August 11, 2007 12:19 AM   Subscribe

In 1937-38, computer pioneer George Philbrick worked for the Foxboro Co. as an analyst. He had the radical idea of building an electronic analog computer to simulate the behaviour of hydraulic industrial equipment, so Foxboro customers could experiment with control systems without needing a pipe wrench. One of the world's first analog computers was ignominiously ferried around the U.S. in the back seat of Philbrick's car. Ironically, Philbrick didn't give his "Automatic Process Analyzer" a properly techy, pretentious nickname. He dubbed his one-eyed monster Polyphemus. (PDF) (prev)
posted by metasonix (9 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
one of the world's first electronic analog computers, mind you. Mechanical analog computers, such as the Differential Analyzer, existed long before Philbrick came along.
posted by metasonix at 12:21 AM on August 11, 2007

Nice addendum to the previous post, metasonix--this stuff is great, even if it makes my (admittedly overtired) brain ache.
posted by retronic at 1:25 AM on August 11, 2007

So, tubes, then.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:03 AM on August 11, 2007

Yes, a series of tubes- not to be confused with a truck.
posted by The White Hat at 3:30 AM on August 11, 2007

Metasonix, not that long before, the first practical model was built in 1927.

Unless you are talking about mechanical digital computers.

This is very interesting for me, because I've always used water tanks as an analogy when I'm trying to explain capacitance (because that's how my feeble brain needs to visualize it).
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:43 AM on August 11, 2007

Foxboro is still one of the major vendors of Distributed Control Systems for chemical, refining and pharmaceutical plants. I mostly work with a competing company's product.

Things have come a long way indeed. With a VPN connection, remote desktop and a laptop, one can monitor and even control major parts of one of these plants in one's pajamas from home. This comes in very handy when troubleshooting problems at 2:30 a.m. :)
posted by SteveTheRed at 9:29 AM on August 11, 2007

I re-read my comment and thought that I should clarify: I am the customer of the competing customer. I'm not trying to sell any DCS product to anyone. I have no dog in that race.
posted by SteveTheRed at 9:55 AM on August 11, 2007

Crap. competing vendor
posted by SteveTheRed at 9:56 AM on August 11, 2007

Philbrick didn't give his "Automatic Process Analyzer" a properly techy, pretentious nickname. He dubbed his one-eyed monster Polyphemus.

"People don't want cars named after hungry old Greek broads! They want names like 'Mustang' and 'Cheetah' - vicious animal names."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:58 AM on August 12, 2007

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