Is the polar planimeter an analog computer?

I’ve had a Gibsonian ask me about this device.  I say it’s an information processor (not in the technical Shannon sense) and an analog computer.  Other opinions?  Wikipedia description.


  1. gualtiero

    Ken, thanks for sharing this nice example. I would recommend calling it an analog computing aid. I would reserve the term “computing mechanism” for truly automatic devices, which can do a whole calculation by themselves. Finally, I would reserve the term “analog computer” for the kind of integration-based devices formally characterized by Shannon 1941 and Pour-El 1974. (

  2. Joshua Stern

    I agree with this post! I will go a bit further and assert the very concept of “analog computer” is likely unsound (traditions aside), except as we can map back to it from what are now the archetypical “computing” devices, the Turing-derived digital electronic computers.

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