A mechanical computer is built from physical components such as levers and gears rather than electronic components. The earliest mechanical computers have existed since 200 B.C. when the ancient Greeks constructed a device named the Antikythera that calculated the positions of the planets. In 1837, Charles Babbage designed (but was unable to construct because of limited funding) arguably the general purpose computer called the Analytical Engine. With the availability of modern tools such as laser cutters and 3D printers, it is possible to design and create purely mechanical computers that demonstrate key principles of computer science, such as flip-flops, logic gates, and binary arithmetic.
James McCaffrey from Microsoft Research Labs and some of his colleagues - Kirk Olynyk, Madison Minsk and Amy Shan - created such a device, called GraviComp. In this mini episode of The Maker Show, James presents GraviComp to us in all its glory.
About the Creator
James McCaffrey works at Microsoft Research Labs in Redmond, Washington. James has a doctorate in applied math from USC, and BA degrees in cognitive psychology and mathematics. James has worked on several Microsoft products including Internet Explorer and Bing. James is also the Senior Contributing Editor for Microsoft's MSDN Magazine.