Hybrid computers are computers that are designed to provide functions and features that are found with both analog computers and digital computers. The idea behind this combined or hybrid computer model is to create a working unit that offers the best of both types of computers. With most designs, the analog components of the equipment provide efficient processing of differential equations, while the digital aspects of the computer address the logical operations associated with the system.
By creating this type of integrated computer, the benefits of both analog and digital computing are readily available. A hybrid computer is extremely fast when it comes to managing equations, even when those calculations are extremely complicated. This advantage is made possible by the presence of the analog components inherent within the design of the equipment.
While the hybrid computer can manage equations with the same ease as an analog computer, the digital components help to eliminate one of the main drawbacks of a purely analog device. Comparatively speaking, the range of precision on an analog computer is limited, whereas the precision with a digital computer is much greater. By incorporating the components that allow the digital computer to go beyond the three to four digits of precision that are common with an analog equipment, hybrid computing makes it possible to handle equations much more rapidly than the digital option alone. In other words, hybrid computing offers both speed and precision, thus eliminating the need for the user to settle for one or the other.
The value of a hybrid computer is readily seen where there is a need to manage equations in a real-time fashion. Whereas a strictly analog device would provide quick returns that were not entirely precise, and a digital device would provide more precise responses that would take longer to calculate, the hybrid approach makes it possible to obtain answers now rather than later. At the same time, those answers are more detailed and thus more useful than the fast answers provided by the analog equipment.
It is important to note that a true hybrid computer is not simply a hybrid system. The hybrid computer is constructed with the components needed to allow the device to function with both speed and precision. Products that are marketed as hybrid systems are often nothing more than digital computer equipment that has been augmented with the presence of an analog to digital converter for the input, and a digital to analog converter to manage the output. While effective, a system of this type is normally considered less efficient than a true hybrid computer.