ELECTRONIC “BRAIN” SOLVES GUIDED MISSILE PROBLEMS




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CSIRO Problem In Computer Network




The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 December, 1950




From a Special Correspondent in New York

The Radio Corporation of America has built a new type of electronic brain which will save years of time and millions of dollars in the construction of guided missiles, ships, planes and submarines.

Known as Project Typhoon, the computer can solve in one minute problems that would take two mathematicians six months to work out.

The machine is designed to evaluate the performance of guided missiles by testing small-scale models, thus obviating the need of building costly models and testing them in flight.

It can do the same for ships, submarines. aeroplanes and rocket-born atom bombs, thus saving time, materials and funds. It also is designed to solve many riddles in devising the most efficient defence of our cities against enemy aircraft.

The analog calculator employs 4,000 electron tubes, several miles of intricate wiring, and a set of super-accurate components, exact to better than one part in 25.000.

R.C.A. engineers designed and built the instrument for the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics. Three years of work directed by Arthur W. Vance, head of the R.C.A. laboratories electronic computer section preceded construction of the computer.

Huge Switchboard

At a recent public demonstration, the computer was shown solving a simulated air defence problem wherein a high-speed bomber was

successfully attacked by a radar-controlled supersonic rocket-propelled guided missile. The missile was guided with deadly accuracy to the target.

All information necessary to sslve the problem was introduced to the machine by means of more than 100 dials and a portion of 6,000 plug-in switchboard connections, mounted on the tall panel sections of the computer.

Different dial positions and plug connections represented such characteristics as aerodynamics of the missile, loss of weight due to fuel consumption, and radar signals which follow the missile and target.

Other adjustments accounted for the autopilot or gyro stabilisers of the missile, the path and velocity of the target, and the main guidance system to be used for directing the missile towards the target in the most effective manner.

An instant after the computer was put into operation by the throwing of a switch at the main control console, electrical impulses flowed through Typhoon’s thousands of electron tubes and wires. Within the device, electrical currents and voltage began representing physical things such as distance, velocity, and force. Circuits started functioning according to predetermined equations.

The heart of Project Typhoon is a new type of electronic multiplier, which basically combines the operations of a slide rule and an adding machine.

By blending these two techniques in more complex forms, Typhoon is said to achieve "a combination of flexibility and accuracy unobtainable by either system alone". Each of the 600 electric relays in the computer  multipliers operates in 1/10,000th of a second,

Nine engineers and mathematicians and six technical assistants are required to operate the computer when it is solving complex guided-missile problems,

Capt. John K. Ruhsenberger, director of the U.S. Navy Special Devices Centre, said the computer may eventually cut the time for the design and construction of an aeroplane from five years to six months, with corresponding speed up  in design and construction of guided missiles, ship and submarines.

Mr. Vance said that Typhoon can handle simulated problems of a complete guied-missile sysytem which other computers are too small or too inaccurate to handle effectively. It will enable the design of equipment with a minimum of experiments that would otherwise require expensive apparatus such as actual missiles, aeroplanes, and ships.

The new electrical computer will play a significant role in military science of the future. Very often the construction of an experimental guided missile may cost more than 100,000 dollars, and unless its characteristics are checked in advance by advanced computing techniquesc, actual launchings may be failures, resulting in the loss of instruments and  apparatus.

"With Typhoon, the missile problem can be solved over and over, with the characteristics varied each time until the desired results are obtained. Thus, by avoiding costly trial-and-error tests, the new computer can, with a high degree of accuracy. assure scientists how a proposed missile will react under actual flight conditions".