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Wikimedia Commons

5 Computers From the Days Before Computers

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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.

5 Subtle Cues That Can Tell You About Your Date's Financial Personality

Being financially compatible with your partner is important, especially as a relationship grows. Fortunately, there are ways you can learn about your partner’s financial personality in a relationship’s early stages without seeing their bank statement or sitting them down for “the money talk.”

Are they a spender or a saver? Are they cautious with money? These habits can be learned through basic observations or casual questions that don’t feel intrusive. Here are some subtle things that can tell you about your date’s financial personality.


Casual conversations about finance-related topics can be very revealing. Does your date know if their employer matches their 401(k) plan contributions? Do you find their answers to any financial questions a bit vague—even the straightforward ones like “What are the rewards like on your credit card?” This could mean that your partner is a little fuzzy on some of the details of their financial situation.

As your connection grows, money talks are only natural. If your date expresses uncertainty about their monthly budget, it may be an indicator that they are still working on the best way to manage their finances or don’t keep close tabs on their spending habits.


If you notice your partner is always watching business news channels, thumbing through newspapers, or checking share prices on their phone, they are clearly keeping abreast of what’s going on in the financial world. Ideally, this would lead to a well-informed financial personality that gives way to smart investments and overall monetary responsibility.

If you see that your date has an interest in national and global finances, ask them questions about what they’ve learned. The answers will tell you what type of financial mindset to expect from you partner moving forward. You might also learn something new about the world of finance and business!


You may be able to learn a lot about someone’s financial personality just by asking what they usually do for dinner. If your date dines out a lot, it could be an indication that they are willing to spend money on experiences. On the other hand, if they’re eating most of their meals at home or prepping meals for the entire week to cut their food budget, they might be more of a saver.


Money is a source of stress for most people, so it’s important to observe if financial anxiety plays a prominent role in your date’s day-to-day life. There are a number of common financial worries we all share—rising insurance rates, unexpected car repairs, rent increases—but there are also more specific and individualized concerns. Listen to how your date talks about money and pick up on whether their stress is grounded in worries we all have or if they have a more specific reason for concern.

In both instances, it’s important to be supportive and helpful where you can. If your partner is feeling nervous about money, they’ll likely be much more cautious about what they’re spending, which can be a good thing. But it can also stop them from making necessary purchases or looking into investments that might actually benefit them in the future. As a partner, you can help out by minimizing their expenses for things like nights out and gifts in favor of less expensive outings or homemade gifts to leave more of their budget available for necessities.


Does your date actually look at how much they’re spending before handing their credit card to the waiter or bartender at the end of the night? It’s a subtle sign, but someone who looks over a bill is likely much more observant about what they spend than someone who just blindly hands cards or cash over once they get the tab.

Knowing what you spend every month—even on smaller purchases like drinks or dinner—is key when you’re staying on a budget. It’s that awareness that allows people to adjust their monthly budget and calculate what their new balance will be once the waiter hands over the check. Someone who knows exactly what they’re spending on the small purchases is probably keeping a close eye on the bigger picture as well.


While these subtle cues can be helpful signposts when you’re trying to get an idea of your date’s financial personality, none are perfect indicators that will be accurate every time. Our financial personalities are rarely cut and dry—most of us probably display some behaviors that would paint us as savers while also showing habits that exclaim “spender!” By relying too heavily on any one indicator, we might not get an accurate impression of our date.

Instead, as you get to know a new partner, the best way to learn about their financial personality is by having a straightforward and honest talk with them. You’ll learn more by listening and asking questions than you ever could by observing small behaviors.

Whatever your financial personality is, it pays to keep an eye on your credit score. Discover offers a Free Credit Scorecard, and checking it won't impact your score. It's totally free, even if you aren't a Discover customer. Check yours in seconds. Terms apply. Visit Discover to learn more.

Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?

Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]


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