The Philips Machine
| Nicolai Foss |
I just spent three days in London. Jolly, indeed. Before going to the London Business School yesterday, where I had a paper expertly demolished and teared apart by Michael Jacobides, I visited for the first, but certainly not last, time the Science Museum on Exhibition Road. The museum is really quite marvelous, and I very strongly recommend it. Even wives are likely to take interest.
I was strolling through the section on computing when — quite unexpectedly, because I had no idea it was on display at the museum — I noticed the famous Philips Machine (here is a pic), essentially a hydro-mechanical analogue computer designed to exhibit the functioning of the economy from the point of a very crude Keynesian perspective. The Machine was constructed by Bill Philips, of Philips curve fame, and was the reason why 1950s macro is sometimes referred to as “hydraulic Keynesianism” (a term that was coined by the brilliant, but now forgotten Alan Coddington). No less than 12 copies were built for teaching purposes and sold to various UK universities. The one that is on display at the museum was resurrected from a LSE lumber room (shockingly, the machine was actually used in teaching until 1992. But then again the macro I was exposed to in the 1980s was no less silly than Philips’ machine). Here is an excerpt from a BBC programme on the machine.