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5 Computers From the Days Before Computers

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Everyone knows what a computer is, right? It's electronic, high-tech and digital. It's only existed for the last 50 or 60 years. It has defined the word "modern" in “modern world.” And it’s given hackers a useful role to play in big-budget action movies.

But computers actually date back thousands of years. Here are a handful of the most interesting predecessors to the modern PC, and what folks in olden times used them for.

1. The Antikythera mechanism

A mysterious object recovered from a shipwreck, this first-century device has stunned researchers. Its fine workmanship and impeccable mechanism wouldn't be matched for more than 1000 years.

When recovered in 1901, its discoverers had no idea of its origin or purpose. Over the decades, scientists have theorized that it was a portable device that allowed its user to input the date and learn the position of the Sun, Moon, and other astronomical phenomena.

In recent years, computed tomography scans have revealed even more intricacies. The mechanism is considered by some to be the earliest surviving computer.

2. The Stepped Reckoner

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Gottfried Leibniz, a German mathematician and all-around genius (he created differential calculus), invented the first four-function calculator in 1673. It used a metal cylinder to represent the digits from 0 to 9, and its basic design was used in mechanical calculators into the 1970s and 1980s. The hand-cranked Curta calculator is a direct descendent.

There was a fairly significant problem with Leibniz’s device, though. His design outstripped the ability of workmen at the time. His calculator didn’t actually work that well when built. And even when fully restored to his original specifications in the late 1800s, the reckoner didn’t carry tens correctly.

3. Difference Engine

 

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The most famous analogue computers were created—although not fully built—by the English pioneer Charles Babbage.

He first proposed the Difference Engine—a giant, automatic calculator—in 1822. The British government ended its funding for the project some two decades later, after Babbage had spent 17,000 pounds without creating a usable machine. He had created a lot of high-quality industrial tools to make the gears a Difference Engine might use, though.

4. Analytical Engine

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Babbage didn't stop to mourn. He had already moved on the Analytical Engine, the very first general-purpose computer. His design (which spanned thousands of pages) included the main elements found in modern computers—including programs installed via punch cards. Babbage worked until his death in 1871 to realize his creation, but neither her nor his heirs managed to construct one.

5. MONIAC (Monetary National Income Analogue Computer)

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This analog computer, created in 1949, modeled the economic workings of the United Kingdom through a series of water tanks. Water flowed through MONIAC from a reservoir, representing the treasury, perched at the top of the system. Taxation was represented by water pumped from the lower tanks back to the top one.

While this type of computer was displaced by digital devices, MONIAC has lived on in fiction. It appeared in thinly disguised form in fantasy author Terry Pratchett’s 2007 novel, Making Money.

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Every New Movie, TV Series, and Special Coming to Netflix in May
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Netflix

Netflix is making way for loads of laughs in its library in May, with a handful of original comedy specials (Steve Martin, Martin Short, Carol Burnett, Tig Notaro, and John Mulvaney will all be there), plus the long-awaited return of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Here’s every new movie, TV series, and special making its way to Netflix in May.

MAY 1

27: Gone Too Soon

A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana

Amelie

Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1

Beautiful Girls

Darc

God's Own Country

Hachi: A Dog's Tale

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City

Mr. Woodcock

My Perfect Romance

Pocoyo & Cars

Pocoyo & The Space Circus

Queens of Comedy: Season 1

Reasonable Doubt

Red Dragon

Scream 2

Shrek

Simon: Season 1

Sliding Doors

Sometimes

The Bourne Ultimatum

The Carter Effect

The Clapper

The Reaping

The Strange Name Movie

Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Season 2

MAY 2

Jailbreak

MAY 4

A Little Help with Carol Burnett

Anon

Busted!: Season 1

Dear White People: Volume 2

End Game

Forgive Us Our Debts

Kong: King of the Apes: Season 2

Manhunt

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Tina Fey

No Estoy Loca

The Rain: Season 1

MAY 5

Faces Places

MAY 6

The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale

MAY 8

Desolation

Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives

MAY 9

Dirty Girl

MAY 11

Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 3

Evil Genius: the True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist

Spirit Riding Free: Season 5

The Kissing Booth

The Who Was? Show: Season 1

MAY 13

Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife

MAY 14

The Phantom of the Opera

MAY 15

Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce: Season 4

Grand Designs: Seasons 13 - 14

Only God Forgives

The Game 365: Seasons 15 - 16

MAY 16

89

Mamma Mia!

The 40-Year-Old Virgin

The Kingdom

Wanted

MAY 18

Cargo

Catching Feelings

Inspector Gadget: Season 4

MAY 19

Bridge to Terabithia

Disney’s Scandal: Season 7

Small Town Crime

MAY 20

Some Kind of Beautiful

MAY 21

Señora Acero: Season 4

MAY 22

Mob Psycho 100: Season 1

Shooter: Season 2

Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 2

Tig Notaro Happy To Be Here

MAY 23

Explained

MAY 24

Fauda: Season 2

Survivors Guide to Prison

MAY 25

Ibiza

Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life

The Toys That Made Us: Season 2

Trollhunters: Part 3

MAY 26

Sara's Notebook

MAY 27

The Break with Michelle Wolf

MAY 29

Disney·Pixar's Coco

MAY 30

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4

MAY 31

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Howard Stern

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The First-Ever Troop of Homeless Girl Scouts Just Crushed Their Cookie Sales Goal
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iStock

Selling 32,500 boxes of cookies in a single week would be noteworthy for any team of Girl Scouts, but it's an especially sweet achievement for Troop 6000: The New York City-based chapter is the first-ever Girl Scout troop composed entirely of children living in homeless shelters.

According to NBC News, this season marked the first time the troop took part in the organization's annual cookie sale tradition. In early April, they received exclusive permission to set up shop inside the Kellogg's Café in Union Square. They kicked off their inaugural stand sale aiming to sell at least 6000 boxes of cookies: At the end of six days, they had sold more than 32,500.

Some customers waited in line an hour to purchase boxes from the history-making young women. Others gave their money directly to the troop, collectively donating over $15,000 to fund trips and activities. After purchasing their cookies, customers could also buy special Girl Scout cookie-inspired menu items from the Kellogg's store, with all proceeds going to Troop 6000.

The troop formed in 2016 as a collaboration between the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, Mayor de Blasio, and the city Department of Homeless Services. Meetings are held in shelters across the city, and many of the troop leaders, often mothers of the scouts, are homeless women themselves. About 40 percent of New York's homeless population are children, and Troop 6000 had to expand last summer to accommodate a flood of new recruits. Today, there are about 300 girls enrolled in the program.

[h/t NBC News]

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