From driving water wheels to turning turbines, water has been used as the prime mover of machinery and the powerhouse of industry for many centuries. In ancient times, the forces of flowing water were even harnessed to power the first rudimentary clocks. Now, engineers at Stanford University have created the world’s first water-operated computer. Using magnetized particles flowing through a micro-miniature network of channels, the machine runs like clockwork and is claimed to be capable of performing complex logical operations.
The LightSail solar sail mission has been "paused" due to a software glitch related to a design flaw in the avionics software, which has frozen the onboard computer in a fashion all too familiar to terrestrial technology users.
From the company that brought us Otto, the gif-capturing camera,
comes CHIP, the US$9 computer. Its endowments of 1 gig processing, 4
gig storage, and 512 MB of RAM would only be average, were it not for
the price, and the fact that it's ready-to-go despite its svelte stature
– small enough to fit on a Post-It note. As with Otto, the company is
seeking funding on Kickstarter and is also offering PocketCHIP, an
enclosure to turn CHIP into an affordable smart device with touchscreen
Sharetable is all about simplifying interactions around a computer. Instead of having two people grappling for control, with awkward exchanges of mouse and keyboard and adjustments of screen position, it's designed to let two people work together more elegantly. Its approach is, in essence, to mirror or extend the screen across two displays on the same desk. But there's more to it. For starters, the computer is embedded in the desk. And so is one of the screens.
You've probably noticed how hot a computer can get if it's doing something taxing, like playing a game, for example. The same thing happens with server farms, but on a larger scale. Dutch startup Nerdalize aims to ditch the usual server farm setup and put internet-connected servers in people's homes, using the excess heat to warm the homes free-of-charge.
One unfortunate fact of modern life is that functional new software becomes non-functional old software with depressing regularity. For most people, this means predictable episodes of frustration, but for the US military, it's a more serious problem. DARPA's new Building Resource Adaptive Software Systems (BRASS) project aims to take a major shot at avoiding this obsolescence by developing software systems that can still operate properly a hundred years from now.
We've seen a number of clever learning tools aimed at future generations of roboticists and programmers recently. The latest educational plaything to join the likes of DynePods
, the Kibo
and the Wigl bot
is Hackaball. It's a computer in a ball that kids can program using an iPad, and then throw it around, bounce it off walls and kick it about in completely made up games.
The idea of connecting a basic computer to a more powerful one over a network isn't new – the first modern computer networks began as dumb terminals that accessed smart mainframes – but improvements in hardware technology, internet speeds and online software are now making the concept genuinely viable for consumers. Enter new startup Paperspace, which wants you to run your computer from the cloud.
Images of ourselves recorded through cameras on smartphones and laptops can be a welcome addition to communication with friends or professional interactions, or just a bit of fun. But this powerful combination of hardware and software is being tapped into by scientists for other purposes as well. A team of researchers at the University of Rochester has developed a computer program that can help health professionals monitor a person`s mental health through the images from selfie videos the patient records while engaging in social media activity.
A piece of cybernetic history returned home as a long-lost component of the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC), one of the first practical general purpose computers, was returned to Britain from the United States. The electronics chassis was given to the The National Museum of Computing
(TNMOC) at Bletchley Park, where it will be used as part of the EDSAC reconstruction project and raises the possibility that more surviving parts may be recovered in the future.