Unusual computing machines

A computer does not have to run on electricity, and it does not have to be made out of silicon chips.

Human + machine system

Mechanical computers

  • Here is an example of a calculating machine made up of lego pieces. It is modelled after the difference engine invented by Charles Babbage.
  • Z1 - An electrically driven mechanical computer with floating-point arithmetic created by Konrad Zuse around 1937.

The Antikythera mechanism is perhaps the oldest mechanical computer that has been discovered so far. It is estimated to be from around 150–100 BC. doi:10.1038/444551a

It is an astronomical device that provides a 365 day calendar as well as other functions including computation of solar and lunar eclipses.

Biological computation

  • In 1994, Leonard M. Adleman used DNA molecules to carry out a very difficult computation to solve a version of the travelling salesman problem.
  • Columbia University and the University of New Mexico created the MAYA-II, an array of 100 DNA circuits. It can play a complete game of Tic-Tac-Toe against a human opponent. [2006.10]