A hybrid computer is formed as a result of combining the features of analogue computers and digital computers. Analogue computers are capable of performing complex differential computations whereas, digital computers are best suited for performing logical and numerical analysis. Also, digital computers have greater precision, while analogue computers provide a better interface by displaying the result in a simple and graphical manner. Packard Bell, a Dutch-based computer manufacturing company, utilized these traits of both the technologies and designed the first efficient hybrid computer in 1961 called Hycomp 250.
Types of Hybrid Computers
1. Large Electronic Hybrid Computer
Large Electronic Hybrid Computers consist of a number of operational amplifiers. Initially, they were designed to solve complex differential equations. These computers have gone obsoleted today but they have provided a rigid base for the later developed technologies.
2. General-Purpose Hybrid Computers
As the name suggests general-purpose hybrid computers are used for general purposes such as computing numerical results quickly with high precision. Due to the application in daily life, these computers are comparatively more flexible and user friendly.
3. Special-Purpose Hybrid Computers
Special Purpose Hybrid Computers are used in places that require extreme supervision. For instance, hospitals, fire stations, forensic labs, etc. These computers are very less susceptible to reprogramming and serve as a controller or analyzer.
Examples of Hybrid Computers
1. Gasoline Station
The fuel vending machine at a gas station measures the amount of fuel via analogue technology and displays the information regarding cost in digital form. Since it uses both analogue and digital signals, a fuel vending machine is a significant example of hybrid computers. Next time, when you visit a petrol pump, remind yourself about hybrid computers and their practical life examples.
2. Electrocardiogram Machine
Electrocardiogram or ECG machine is designed to measure heart activity. It makes use of 12-13 sensors that pick the body signals and translate them to the digital data. This digital data is then processed by the controller and the output is generated, usually, in the form of an electrocardiograph. Body signals are analogue in nature and the output is generated in both analogue and digital form. Therefore, ECG machine is an example of hybrid computers.
3. Ultrasound Machine
Ultrasounds are the high-frequency sound waves that a normal human cannot hear directly. These sound waves are very advantageous in medical technology. An ultrasound machine consists of a transducer probe that transmits the high-frequency sound, this sound travels freely till it strikes an obstacle. When the ultrasound strikes the obstacle, it gets reflected back. The reflected signal is picked up by the same transducer probe and is sent for processing to generate the output in image form. Ultrasound devices are neither completely analogue nor completely digital. Therefore, an ultrasound machine can be placed under the category of hybrid computers.
4. Monitoring Machine
A patient monitoring system is one of the finest innovation in the modern world. Typically, a monitoring machine is able to evaluate body parameters such as heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, SPO2, and body temperature. A number of sensors, attached to the body are responsible for catching the analogue signal from the body. This signal is then converted into digital data and is sent for further processing. The controller processes this digital data and presents it in a form that is interpretable to the doctor. This process is then repeated again after user allotted time. This hybrid computer is a major asset because monitoring all these body parameters separately and frequently is very difficult.
5. Research and Production Industries
A major application of hybrid computers lies in the research field. During the research, an experiment is required to be repeated over and again. All of them are required to be accurate and precise. The better be the precision, the better is the result of the experiment. For this purpose, hybrid computers serve to be the finest choice.
A lot of forensic related activities make use of hybrid computers. For instance, say, a crime investigator gives a small patch of the powdered element to a forensic scientist and asks him to analyse its composition. The forensic scientist, therefore, uses mass spectrometry to detect the molecular mass of the element. The molecular mass tells about the element and its possible isotopes. This technique is highly dependent on hybrid computers to achieve accuracy.
The systems designed for defence-related activities are supposed to be both quick and precise. This is the reason why hybrid computers are employed in applications such as the control system for missiles, nuclear security systems, fighter plane simulation systems, etc.