Analog computers vs Digital computers

On this page we’ll be comparing analog computers vs digital computers. We’ll find out exactly what analog computers are, what digital computers are, and work out some of the differences between them.

Whilst prominent in the 1960’s all the way through to the late 20th century, analog computers are now a thing of the past. They used to be widely used everywhere and solved many problems, but they have since been replaced by the digital computer.

Quite simply:

An analog computer utilises continuous signals while a digital computer makes use of mathematical signals commonly referred to as binary.

There are many more differences to be aware of though when comparing analog computers vs digital computers.

We’ve listed 10 differences below in a table that makes it easier to compare the two types of computers.



OutputOutputs voltage that can be displayed through oscilloscopes and meters.Outputs numbers in binary format.
CircuitsUtilises networks of capacitors and resisters to achieve continuous voltage signals.Uses microprocessors and logic gates to achieve on-off switching currents.
SignalsThese signals are continuous, they can fluctuate continuously between two limitsDigital signals are either on or off. There are only the two states.
EmulationHave very limited capability for emulating a digital computer.Have advanced in capabilities and speeds to the point where they can now emulate analog behaviour but more accurately and reliable than the actual analog.
AvailabilityVery few traditional analog computers are still round.Digital computers are everywhere now.
NoiseElectrical noise in the circuits causes analog computers to be less accurate.The electrical noise in the circuits of digital computers has very little impact on accuracy.
ProgrammingIs programmed by connecting sub-systems through patch cables and turning dials to increase/decrease signal strength.Programmed through sets of typed instructions.
SizeVary in size significantly but usually don't exist much smaller than a large book.Vary in size significantly and can even be as small as a few millimetres across.
Signal CoordinationHas no internal clock, everything is just free flowing and can sometimes end up behaving in an unpredictable way.Everything organises itself to the pulse/tick of the internal 'master' clock.
Data StorageIt is very difficult to store analog data as it is a continous signal. It is easier to transform this into digital data and store it that way.Digital data is numerical and so is very easy to store.