I'm doing a bit of research for a talk, could you send me anything relevant to paper computing, diy punchards machines, graph-paper coding, vedic mathematics, mechanical programming, and other things you have stumbled upon that you found interesting related to computerless computing?

@neauoire I have a few things on Vedic mathematics, Korean finger math, abacus, mental math and slide rules. I'll look up authors and links when I get back to my desktop.

@ewankeep thanks a lot, if that doesn't fit well in a toot, shoot me an email at

@neauoire will do. Sounds like an interesting talk. :)

@neauoire The Three Body Problem has this really cool sequence where a general uses a million-strong army to do computations, with each soldier simulating a single bit by holding up a red or blue flag.

@neauoire Maybe clocks / watches are tangent to that topic? I don't have any particular info, just a thought.

@eviloatmeal @neauoire especially the Antikythera mechanism - which was described by de Solla Price as a computer

@neauoire in Stephenson's The Diamond Age, the Primer has several interesting computer-less computing stories.

@cancel @neauoire does the prose & gibberish words in anathem become easier to get through? i gave anathem a try once and was turned off by the verbose made up vocab

@cblgh @neauoire yeah, at the beginning you don't need to understand it. There's also a glossary if you need it.

@cblgh @cancel @neauoire i had a hard time starting it for the same reason, but once the story gets going it starts making more sense. there's an exercise in trying to figure out what they're talking about, but you can also use the glossary, or just ignore it.

@neauoire oh! i’ll see what i’ve got in my analogue cyberpunk tag

@neauoire macbee quicksort cards (generic name: edge punch cards. used for computerless computing)
aperture cards: punch cards with a microfische in the middle- the punches are used for indexing and retrieval of the content on the film.

@neauoire the drum on this electromechanical balistic comouter encodes a 2d function, with inputs fed in by the intrumentation of the bumber plane. the function determines the exact moment to drop the bomb to hit its target

@neauoire this episode of vsauce walks through the process of building and using a matchbox and bead based computer

@neauoire a series of gifs demonstrating various logic gates as rope and pulley systems

@neauoire MONIAC is a water based computer that models the world economy as a set of columns of water and differential pressure systems stablizing at a equilibrium pressure.

Terry Pratchet based a discworld book on it.

@neauoire more about water computers, with speculation that those lavish eurpean royal gardens with huge labyrinths and water fountains may have been secretly used as computers for political and military strategy.

@neauoire The wikipedia article only says "ancient india" and doesn't say how far back it could go.

but, the vedic game known to us as "Snakes and Ladders" is structurally equivalent to a finite state machine, so you could, in principle, implement regular expressions and program language parsers as games of snakes and ladders.

@neauoire an aperiodic tile pattern in a 12th century islamic temple, using "girih" tiles, was found to be mathematically equivalent to the penrose tiling. I could go on for hours on this topic, but to relate it to THIS One, Roger Penrose used this aperiodic tiling in a mathematical proof that computers can't replicate human intelligence.

@zens Zens you've been killing it with these links, so good! @neauoire

@yhancik @zens no kidding!! this is such an amazing thread. Thank you so much!

@neauoire this one time, in the 1990's, NASA's jet propulsion library filled a jug with jello, stuck electrodes into it, and somehow coerced it to behave like a neural network. I have no idea how this worked.

@neauoire And even though, as a sailor, you very likely know aaaaalll about these, I figure I should add these because it turns out my analog cyberpunk tag was empty, and I've been building this list up from memory.

1. Antikythera Mechanism
2. Sextant
3. Astrolabe
4. John Harrison's H4 Marine chronometer, the world's first clock accurate enough for longitudinal position calculation.

@neauoire a bit more mundanely, I used to use a proportion wheel back when I was studying to become a printer.

real growth industry that one. That career move really panned out.

@neauoire the first machine to actually be called a “computer” (previously, it was a job description) was something like a very big fancy gun. it even has three pistol grips.

@neauoire these tracks and carousel of pins implement the timing and sequence program and selection memory of a wurlitzer jukebox. pressing a buttton to select a record pushes a cooresponding pin up. as the drum spins, a metal brush arm closes a circuit with the 5 tracks to switch on and off the robotics motors at appropriate moments, and the selection pins stop the drum spinning at a soecific point in the cycle.

it’s explained in detail here

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@zens @neauoire Oh god, you too! Damn, I had one of those too. Used them when working on stat cameras. Compugraphic typsetting machines (with punched tape teletype and film cartridges). Paste-up. AB Dick and Ryobi offsett presses. Christ. Did that for money in college and afterwards.

@bamfic @neauoire i was just slightly late, never made a dime.

plus there’s this thing where a certain kind of person will take an instant dislike of me. turns out that most printers are that kind of person.

@zens @neauoire Most printers are functional alcoholics, IME.

@zens @neauoire similarly, William Gibson's Difference Engine describes a massive pneumatic computer which reminded me of the Paris Pneumatic Clock Network (the original NTP)

@zens @neauoire

I would like to find something like that to exemplify Artificial neural network

@zens @neauoire

There's also the Norden bombsight from WWII, which was super top secret during its time. It gets mentioned in Catch-22 which is how I found it:

Also, a super basic example is those paper wheels that sometimes come with stuff... I guess they're really just lookup tables, but still interesting. Lookup tables in table form are interesting in and of themselves, ie. in the back of statistics books or camera lens charts. There's usually a very specific procedure for using them, otherwise they don't make any sense.

Lenses are cool too, especially complicated zoom lenses, with things moving very precisely in both directions as you rotate the ring...

@float13 @neauoire yes, optical computers are very interesting to. i can’t remember enough details to find it again but i remember reading about a computational process that involved engraving a function into a lense with lasers, and inputting the tensor input value as a digital image into the optics and collecting the output image as the result.

along similar lines, a team managed to compute the precise shape of glass you need to project some specific image as caustics patterns

@float13 @neauoire i didn’t mention it before, because it’s not an actual thing that exists, but i had the idea a while ago of trying to work out how to develop a morse code message decoder as a set of optics that takes a llight pattern and feeds it through a set of optical logic gates.

you could also maybe, in principle encode the weights of a neural network into a a series of glass sheets this way.

@float13 @neauoire haha imagine though, a perfect simulation of a human brain imprinted as a hologram into a sheet of glass, only thinking and being alive when light is shined onto it.

@zens @neauoire

And thus began the first billion dollar Mastodon startup... count me in ;)

@float13 @neauoire the one quality of optical computation processes that makes it worth using is that a lense is intrinsically an instantaneous fourier transform

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