The Anonymous Widower

The Virtual Beagle

The headline of “It might look like a dog’s dinner; but this artificial stomach will save (canine) lives” caught my eye as I read The Times this morning.

Apparently, AstraZeneca have virtually replaced dogs with an artificial stomach for drug testing. So not only is it good for drug development, it’s good news for dogs.  I’ve always felt that animal testing was wrong from a scientifically correct point of view as keeping animals is expensive and the in vitro and computer alternatives are cheaper and much easier to scale up.

The Times article doesn’t say who is behind this development, but it does quote Troy Seidle of the Humane Society International as saying.

This new use of the intestinal model in drug testing is a fantastic example of how innovative technologies can replace animal experiments and improve medical research at the same time.

I have searched the Internet and it would appear that the company behind this wonderful development could be SimCyp, based in Sheffield.

But why is everybody being so coy about this development? This British company should be on page one of all the newspapers.

On a personal note, I was involved in computer simulation of processes for several years in the 1970s, when I worked at ICI.  We always felt that computers had a large part to play in modelling the body, but little seems to have been heard over the last four decades. These are two pictures of the PACE 231R analog computer, I used for simulation of chemical processes.

In my view, there are computers, good computers and the PACE 231R.

The 231R was built in the 1960s and it was all valve or vacuum tube, if you are from the United States.   It was a formidable beast for solving differential equations and I have a feeling that there isn’t one left even in a museum.  These pictures taken by a colleague at ICI seem to be two of the only ones of a 231R in a working environment. Hopefully the Internet will preserve them for ever!

The biggest claim to fame of the 231R was that two of them were used in tandem to solve all of the mathematics and differential equations of getting the Apollo spacecraft to the moon. They were actually linked to virtually a real spacecraft to test everything out.

So when Apollo 13 blew up and they had to use the Lunar Excursion Module to bring the astronauts home, it was these two computers that were reprogrammed to try to find out how to do it. They wouldn’t have stood a chance with a digital machine, but the engineers, programmers and astonauts were able to get the two 231R’s to find a strategy. I’ve never seen the Apollo 13 film, but I suspect that the role of the 231Rs is downplayed or ignored.

So when you ask me, what is the greatest computer ever made, there is only one answer.  The amazing PACE 231R.

January 8, 2011 - Posted by | Computing, News | , , ,


  1. […] are now bigger and can handle many more nodes than the hundred or so, we could handle on our PACE 231R or with IBM 360/CSMP. 52.245212 […]

    Pingback by Buolding Scientific Models with Computers « The Anonymous Widower | January 21, 2011 | Reply

  2. […] I was lucky enough to work with a PACE 231R and there are pictures of the one I used here. […]

    Pingback by Analogue Computing at the Science Museum « The Anonymous Widower | November 27, 2011 | Reply

  3. […] my experience of chemical plants was in the late 1960s and we used an amazing PACE 231R. But that machine was the state-of-the-art computer of its day for solving differential equations. […]

    Pingback by Walthamstow Doesn’t Like Going Dutch! « The Anonymous Widower | November 7, 2015 | Reply

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