News: Math Craft Inspiration of the Week: Marble Binary Calculators & Other Mechanical Computers

Math Craft Inspiration of the Week: Marble Binary Calculators & Other Mechanical Computers

Since today (11/11/11) is the last 6 digit binary date this century, I thought we should look at some kinetic binary calculators.

Matthias Wandel built a beautiful 6 digit binary computer out of wood. If you want to build one, he even gives you some more information and instructions, plus the plans.

Here's a video showing it in action:

Another video with a few more details regarding its operation:

A similar device was built by Matt Donahoe and Jeff DeCew out of LEGO. It can add and subtract 4 bit numbers. You can read more about it here.

A quick video showing it in motion:

Andrew Carol has built a couple more complicated mechanical computers out of LEGO. He built one based off the Antikythera mechanism, which was a analog computer for calculating various astronomical dates. Andrew provides more details here.   

He also built one based off Charles Babbage's Difference Engine, a design for a mechanical computer from the 1800s that could calculate 7th order polynomials to 31 digits of accuracy. More details on the LEGO version can be seen here.  

The LEGO Antikythera mechanism:

The LEGO Difference Engine:

What do you think of these mechanical computers? Does anyone want to build the Marble Adding Machine? I know I'd love to see someone try! 

Have a great weekend and if you create any math-related art, please share with all of us on the corkboard. If you find something cool on the web please share that as well.  I hope to share community content in a post on Monday.

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That is awesome!

I really want to build the wooden one from the plans. It's been on my list of projects for 3 years...I just haven't started it yet!


Jon Hook over at Minecraft World is building the Antikythera mechanism in Minecraft... excited to see it. Also, check out this interview we did with Matthias a while back.


Oh I remember this!

Matthias's creations are amazing. I've thought about buying his plans for the modular marble machine I think this would be pretty fun to play with my son when he's a little bit older.

Got any ambition to make some of those wooden style games for kids? I'm a homeschooler and would love a cool game like that for my lil man.

Perhaps. Could you give me a better idea of what type of games you're talking about?

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