Wooden Clockwork Fractal Computer
Blog by Brent Thorne documenting the development of his clockwork wooden computer designed to calculate and draw fractals:
I’ve been working on this for a while now. Its a wooden computer that computes continuous self-similar fractals. I’ll post the working model of a general computer implemented in gears as soon as I get some laser cutter time to complete the counter/comparator unit.
How the hell is this supposed to work?
I could tell you that it took years and years of research and development to create a theory of computation that could be implemented in wood, but alas it would be untrue. The idea was formed after only a few reductions and one night when I couldn’t get to sleep. You see, computers are much simpler than your teachers might of taught you in school. You don’t even need the Boolean logic primitives to create a computer. These so called primitives are merely symbolic.
The most primitive computer is comprised of only two parts and from these two parts we can create all others. Those two parts are memory and a comparator. Some may claim that any practical computer must also have input and output, but that just is memory, or registers, memory again, or an ALU, nope that’s a comparator.
We can further delineate memory into two types, read-only and read-write. We need the read-write type of memory to store temporary values for comparison. For example, read-write memory could be a toggle or counter. Read-only memory is convenient for storing tables or a program, however these two examples are symbolic and not necessary for computation. An example of read-only memory is pegs in a disc, where the presents of a peg represents a symbol.
The true heart of a computer is the comparator. A comparator simply compares two values. One of those two values was read from memory previously and the other value is read at the current position in memory.
Now that we have our fundamental blocks we can start creating all the other complications that are common to modern computers.
You can find more information about the project at the blog here, including some videos of prototypes in action.
He makes the concept seem simple, but this ‘fundamental’ version looks incredible.