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To Assist Electrical Engineers:

University Purchases Analogue Computer

An instrument capable of duplicating, in miniature, power systems and water and gas flows, is being purchased by the University of Alberta.

The $100,000 electronic calculating board will be delivered in May by a Swiss firm. Funds for the purchase have been donated by the Calgary Power Ltd.

It will be used for solving practical problems of the power industry in Alberta and to assist in the training of electrical engineers in the complexities of modern electric system design.

Professor J. A. Harle of the university's electrical engineering department says the instrument, one of two types of electrical "brains" being produced today, will be placed on the second floor of the University power plant building, headquarters of his department.

He explains there are two classes of electrical computers — the digital and the analogues. The one being purchased by the University is the latter.

An "image" of an electrical supply network is set up on the calculating board and, through the instruments on a connected measuring desk, the instrument tells how the system should be operated, economically and technically.

Only other such "brains" in Canada are owned by the Ontario Hydro-Electric Power Commission and the British Columbia Electric Company.

Basically, it is an electrical model of an electric power system. Voltages, currents and other electrical quantities are scaled down in proportions to that experienced on a power system, so that a relatively few volts and amperes represent actual electrical conditions.

The calculator will eliminate many hours of tedious computation and in fact, will give answers to problems which otherwise might be impossible to solve.

For instance, Professor Harle says the brain might be used in solving problems arising from Alberta's network of interconnected power distribution systems, with which Edmonton's city-owned power system is associated.

The image of the system would be fed to the board and the results would show what would happen under a given set of circumstances and how the system should be operated to the best advantage.

It would help decide where it would be most economical to erect new power generating facilities for connection with the province's power network and would decide on the size needed.

The calculator also could be used, Professor Harle says, for setting up power systems within industrial plants and solving problems related to water and gas flow systems.

Physically, the board will be about seven feet, three inches high, 21 feet long and about 2 1/2 feet deep. Two persons normally will operate it, one feeding the image to the board, the other taking the answers at the measuring desk.

Certain changes will be required on the second floor of the power plant building to accommodate the brain, including the enlarging of a window so the equipment can be hoisted from ground level outside the building.

While an expert from Switzerland will be on hand for the erection of the equipment at the University, personnel of the electrical engineering department will do most of the actual work. It is expected to take about two weeks to set up after it arrives.

Published Spring 1967.

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