Analog is a short name for the magazine Analog Science Fiction and Fact. It is a long running magazine centered around science fiction. Its original name was Astounding and has been almost continuously running since 1938. Many well known writers have had their stories published in Analog, including Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein.

You can visit the magazine online at: http://www.analogsf.com.

A WWW server logfile analyzer, written by the fine folks at University of Cambridge Statistical Laboratory.

Analog is very fast, scalable, and works on wide range of OSes and can analyze many logfile formats. It can also generate many many MANY different statistics. It's also free software.

It has also reported to be much faster and better than most commercial log analyzers =)

If the new economy is digital, then the old economy was analog.

Nearly, but not quite.

In terms of signal processing, an analog signal is one which can take any value within a range. It contrasts with a digital signal, which can only take predetermined values, usually equally-spaced within the same range.

In the extreme case, a digital signal can only be on or off (zero or one) (true or false). In less extreme cases, it might be allowed to take one of any of 256 (or 65536, or 97, or any other number) different levels, but, crucially, nothing in between. Any such digital system can be reduced to the extreme case of On or Off, simply by describing each level in terms of its binary value.

As a digital signal moves from the lowest value to the uppermost, it steps though all 256 (or whatever) different levels, remaining at each discrete level for a finite time.

The analog signal, by contrast, can swing continuously from the minimum value to the maximum.

Digital is not necessarily better than analog (or the other way around), it's just that the science of digital signal processing has developed very quickly over the last couple of decades, and modern computers are based on digital systems, so they can handle digital data more easily than analog data.

I have a digital TV, that's better than my old analog one, Right?

Err, well, kind of. In fact the television, whether the label says digital or not, is a combination of analog and digital systems built into a single box. The digital bit of that phrase 'digital TV' usually refers to the broadcast signal, which carries digital data in an encoded form from the TV mast to your home. Your 'digital' TV is capable of detecting and de-coding that signal. All the rest of the electronics inside the TV is just the same as a conventional TV system, in which some circuits are analog and a few are digital. Most are still analog.

In the old days, all TV signals were broadcast as analog signals carried on UHF carrier waves. Modern technology allows them to encode the digital data on a similar carrier wave, but with the digital data, you can carry more channels in the same bandwidth. Broadcasters want to use digital systems to send their programmes over the air because you can offer people a lot more channels that way.

Oh. How about my radio? That's a digital PLL system. Much better than those old analog radios!

Hmmm, fascinating. PLL means phase-locked loop. It is not really a digital system. I know the buttons and fancy numerical display make it look like one, but it's still really an analog system hiding behind a digital façade. All it means is that the radio holds the broadcast frequency better than older models. Those relied on capacitors and coils to set a resonant frequency. If those components heated up, that would change the resonant frequency, and the radio would drift off the station you were trying to listen to. The PLL stops that happening. Again, all the circuitry inside the radio is still analog.

Hmmph. But my digital watch is far more accurate than my old wind-up one.

Now that's a true digital device. Nothing analog in a quartz watch at all! But the accuracy is not because of the digital/analog thing, it's down to the frequency of vibration of the gizmo driving the watch. Even a Swiss-made analog chronometer depends on its escape wheel as the basis of its accuracy. That wheel swings back and forth maybe a few times a second. A quartz watch, by contrast, relies on a quartz crystal vibrating millions of times a second. It's a lot easier to make an accurate timekeeper from a very fast vibration than from a slower one. That's all.

So why do people go on about digital this and digital that as if it's so much better?

Good question! It's basically all about computers and how they deal with information and data. In the old days of electronics (back in the 50s and 60s, and even up to the 80s) everything was analog. Circuit designers used their capacitors and resistors and inductors to make circuits which modelled reality. Change an input here, and watch the output change. If the designers had done a good job, then an input corresponding to (say) the rainfall on a mountain resulted in an output equivalent to the rise in height of a river.

It was a slow, laborious process, and people needed great skill to design good circuits. And even the best designers could only manage simple models.

Move on to the 21st century, and we have powerful processors which are capable of many millions of calculations per second, but they can only handle digital-type data. If we want to model something, it is much easier to build a model (using software) in our digital computer, and let it do the analysis for us (think about FEA or computational fluid dynamics). As the computers get more powerful, we can divide the original analog data into smaller and smaller digital fragments, until it is all-but indistinguishable from the original analog signal.

Another reason is that there has been a great deal of analytical work on digital signal processing, which allows people to compress more and more real information into less and less data. So instead of sending every single piece of information about a TV picture down the airwaves (as an analog signal does), a digital signal can use fancy tricks (often called data compression) to reduce the amount of data needed to completely describe the full picture. This (and other factors) means you can send more channels down the same piece of wire, or over the same frequency space.

Perhaps the most well-known difference between analog and digital is that a digital signal does not degrade as it is copied and re-copied. Compare a photocopier (analog device) with a computer file (digital format). If the computer file is copied many times over, it still remains a perfect copy of the original. We all know what happens to a photocopy of a photocopy, of a photocopy.

Combine these three factors: data compression, perfect reproduction and fast and convenient processing and we have the reasons that signal engineers like to deal with digital signals rather than analog ones.

OK, but I still have some mint-condition vinyl LPs and I play them on my Linn Sondek, sending the output through a valve amplifier to my electrostatic speakers. And why does my Strad sound better than the Yamaha electronic synthesiser?

Ahh. The joys of analog signal processing. Richer, fuller sounds, none of that harshness, and all the harmonics fully intact.

To get the sound of a Piano or a Strad into that electronic music box, it has to be sampled. That means converting the sound into an electronic signal with a microphone (analog), and then sending the electronic signal to an Analog to Digital Converter (ADC). The ADC chops up the sound into tiny pieces in terms of time and frequency. To play the sound back, all those pieces are re-assembled, and then sent to an (analog) loudspeaker. No matter how finely you chop the sound up, something always gets lost, and if the ADC misses a fast change, nothing on earth can put it back in. Secondly, in the playback, there are always transitions from one level to the next, and analog systems don't respond well to those transitions. They introduce harshness and extra harmonics. That makes digitised sounds harsher and less flowing than fully analog sounds.

A digital signal can only approximate to the full analog signal, no matter how finely you chop it up into bits and bytes. Just as a live concert sounds better than a recording, the purists will always want to hear a recording which uses only high quality analog systems throughout the record/store/playback chain. Because by digitising the signal, you are automatically losing some of those subtle effects.

Each Strad is a unique instrument, made by a craftsman using wood from that part of this tree. Each instrument gives a slightly different sound, depending on the thickness of the wood, the amount of glue and many other factors (not to mention who is playing the instrument). Digital reproduction is not yet good enough or fast enough to truly copy all these nuances. At this point, the signal processing engineer has to start talking Fourier analysis, transients, transfer functions and lots of other techy stuff, but the point is that we still don't really understand how our ears and brains interact to give us the sensation of sound, and because we don't really understand it, we cannot design digital systems to properly reproduce those sounds. For the best listening experience, analog will remain the best for some time to come.

Published initially as Astounding Stories of Super Science (price 20 cents). The magazine was founded in 1930 with Harry Bates as editor under the ownership of Clayton Magazine Co.

The magazine was sold in 1933 to Street & Smith and also received a new editor, F. Orlin Tremaine.

History was made in the genre with the appointment of John W. Campbell, Jr. as editor in 1937. Before, Campbell had been a writer and contributor. He held the helm from 1937 until 1971, becoming part of the leadership which brought SF away from its space opera beginnings through a seachange into the form it currently holds.

Astounding through the years operated under a number of different names including:

  • Astounding Stories of Super Science (later shortened to Astounding Stories)
  • Astounding Science Fiction
  • Analog Science Fact/Science Fiction

The magazine was initially published as a true pulp magazine with course paper, untrimmed edges, gaudy covers, and relatively uncomplicated story lines. Under editor Harry Bates, the tales were expected to be well constructed, with the science involved plausible. The die was cast for the future evolution of the magazine.

When Clayton went out of business in 1933, Street & Smith brought out an incarnation of the magazine beginning in October 1933. Under editor F. Orlin Tremaine the writers were encouraged to come up with novel ideas rather than recycling the same worn space opera fare. In 1934 the magazine became one of the first fiction magazines to publish a major work of non-fiction. Charles Fort's Lo! was published in 8 parts beginning in April 1934. Some of the writers in Astounding Stories during this period were Murray Leinster and John D. Clark. By the end of Tremaine's tenure as editor the magazine had become the most popular SF magazine of the era.


In 1937 John W. Campbell, Jr. became editor. He quickly renamed the magazine to Astounding Science-Fiction. Campbell placed emphasis on both words in the name, Science and Fiction. He demanded that writers not just have action but think through their stories, develop how changes in science would change humanity and the way people lived in the future. Campbell reigned during the Golden Age of SF, discovering and nurturing the careers of such new talents as A. E. Van Vogt, Robert A. Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov. Campbell often took time to write voluminous input to the author on a story whether he purchased it or sent a rejection slip. Other authors who found room for their work in the magazine were Theodore Sturgeon, L. Sprague deCamp, and Lester Del Rey.

Campbell tweaked the name of the magazine again in 1946, dropping the hyphen and making the last two words bold, creating Astounding SCIENCE FICTION. This logo remained until 1953.

The decade of the 50s saw changes. Astoundings success had bred a number of copycat publications, as well as helped create a booming market for SF in paperback editions. The market was becoming crowded and no longer was Astounding the only venue where SF readers could find top notch writing. Campbell also had a change of emphasis, reflecting his interests in 'fringe science', including psionics and other outre topics. Despite the slight change in subject, the emphasis was always on quality. The decade saw publication of L. Ron Hubbard's first article on Dianetics, which eventually became Scientology. It also saw publication of Tom Godwin's Cold Equations, sometimes included on the short list as one of the best SF short stories ever written.

During the 60s Campbell changed the name again, this time to Analog. Campbell had felt for a long time that Astounding was too sensational or juvenile to reflect what the magazine really contained. The 1960 title change was Campbell's final legacy to the magazine he had led so capably and so long. He died suddenly in 1971, leaving a very large pair of shoes to fill.

Following the death of John W. Campbell, Jr., Ben Bova was named editor and assumed the mantle in the January 1972 issue. He was to win 5 consecutive Hugo Awards in 1973-78 for Best Professional Editor. The award was created in 1973, after John W. Campbell, Jr. had passed from the scene. Bova was editor until November 1978.

Following the Bova years, Stanley Schmidt was named editor. He had also been nominated for Best Professional Editor honors each year from 1980-2006 but has never won. While not decorating his mantle with Hugo Awards, he has maintained Analog as the most widely read SF magazine in the English speaking world.

In an interesting and somewhat odd vein, the magazine had a British counterpart. From 1939 through 1963 the 'British Reprint Editions" of ASF were published under license by the Atlas Publishing and Distributing Company. These British reprints were unique in that they contained nothing which had not originally appeared in the American edition, but sometimes lacked the full content of their American cousin. The Brit issues were missing the editorials, serials, factual articles, and letter columns which fleshed out the US editions, making them slimmer and much more spartan than the US edition. The Brit editions usually followed the US content by several months, so when the name changed in America the British change occured some months later. The last of these British editions was released in April 1963, following which the American edition was imported directly into the British market by Condé Nast Publications.

Along the path it has taken in over 75 years of continuous publication, Analog has had its detractors. In contrast to some of the competition, Analog has maintained a very strict insistence on its basis in science, sometimes to the detriment of the story development and flow. Some writers have expressed the feeling that Analogs insistence has gone past the point of logic into a kind of scientific puritanism. The magazine has had the appellation 'scientist fiction' applied by its critics.

The legacy of Astounding and its heir has been the popularization of the SF genré, making it accessible to the reading public. Along the way they have fostered the careers of many writers who are on the 'who's who' list of SF authors. It would be safe to say that without magazines like Astounding and its competitors, the face of SF would be different than it is today. The magazine has accomplished its mission admirably. It has opened eyes and minds, provoked thought, and entertained whole generations of SF fans, and for that service we fans are profoundly grateful.


During its heyday, Analog sold almost 115,000 copies per month. Like its competitors, it has suffered drastic reductions in circulation. During 2006 the magazine had a total circulation of just 28, 319 copies.

In a society which gets its news in 10 second flashes, who are preoccupied with the antics of Paris Hilton, who are treated to the sight of Britney Spears sans lingerie, perhaps there is no room for a magazine which requires the reader to think. The public seems to have an insatiable appetite for mindless pap, shoveled 24/7 by TV, billboards, and magazines. Magazines such as Analog have served to bring out the engineer in dreamers and the dreams out of engineers for decades. It would be a poorer landscape indeed should Analog and its kin fade away into publishing history.

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astounding_Science_Fiction
http://www.astoundingstories.com/

SciFiQuest 2107

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