When mechanical analog computers ruled the waves

When my dad joined the Navy in 1939, battleships’ big guns were under the control of analog fire control computers. They could fire 2,700 lb. projectiles 30 miles or so with an accuracy of around 80 meters. Today, the Navy’s most sophisticated big gun can launch 10 rocket-assisted projectiles per minute 100 miles with an accuracy of 50 meters. The new technology is better, but not as much as you’d expect. One reason is that the kind of problems that shooting large projectiles from ships at sea present  just happen to be the sort that analog computers do very well at solving.

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