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An analog computer is a computer or device that uses physical means, such as mechanical or hydraulic components to do computing tasks, rather than using electronic circuits to manipulate the results of digital technologies. Analog computers represented the earliest efforts of engineers to create powerful computing devices, where digital computers quickly took over as technologies such as logic gates and circuit boards were pioneered.
Early examples of analog computers include Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine and other designs of the era, such as the Jacquard loom. These early computers worked through mechanical processes with physical mechanical parts. Another example is the Enigma machine used to crack German cryptography in World War II. Some types of hardware after that era were said to have bridged analog and physical design, for instance, the widely used punch card systems of early mainframe computers for data input.
While analog computers are largely obsolete, there are still a few efforts to research the use of analog computers in control systems, and for other specialized uses.