The Most Powerful Computers You've Never Heard Of

Dipublikasikan tanggal 25 Mar 2023
Analog computers were the most powerful computers for thousands of years, relegated to obscurity by the digital revolution. This video is sponsored by Brilliant. The first 200 people to sign up via get 20% off a yearly subscription.

Thanks to Scott Wiedemann for the lego computer instructions - • LEGO Logic Gates ...

Antikythera Archive & Animations ©2005-2020 Images First Ltd. • The Antikythera C... "The Antikythera Cosmos" (2021) follows the latest developments from the UCL Antikythera Research Team as they recreate a dazzling display of the ancient Greek Cosmos at the front of the Antikythera Mechanism.

Tides video from NASA -

Ship animation from this painting -

Moore’s Law, the op-amp, and the Norden bombsight were filmed at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.


Freeth, T., Bitsakis, Y., Moussas, X., Seiradakis, J. H., Tselikas, A., Mangou, H., ... & Edmunds, M. G. (2006). Decoding the ancient Greek astronomical calculator known as the Antikythera Mechanism. Nature, 444(7119), 587-591. -
Freeth, T., & Jones, A. (2012). The cosmos in the Antikythera mechanism. ISAW Papers. -
Cartwright, D. E. (2000). Tides: a scientific history. Cambridge University Press. -
Thomson, W. (2017). Mathematical and physical papers. CUP Archive. -
Parker, B. B. (2007). Tidal analysis and prediction. NOAA NOS Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. -
Parker, B. (2011). The tide predictions for D-Day. Physics Today, 64(9), 35-40. -
Small, J. (2013). The Analogue Alternative. Routledge. -
Zorpette, G. (1989). Parkinson's gun director. IEEE Spectrum, 26(4), 43. -
Tremblay, M. (2009). Deconstructing the myth of the Norden Bombsight (Doctoral dissertation). -
Gladwell, M. (2021). The Bomber Mafia. Little, Brown and Company. -
Mindell, D. A. (2000). Automation’s finest hour: Radar and system integration in World War II. Systems, Experts, and Computers: The Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After. Edited by A. C. Hughes and T. P. Hughes, 27-56. -
Haigh, T., Priestley, M., & Rope, C. (2016). ENIAC in Action. The MIT Press. -
Soni, J., & Goodman, R. (2017). A mind at play: how Claude Shannon invented the information age. Simon and Schuster. -
Haigh, T. & Ceruzzi, P. (2021). A New History of Modern Computing. The MIT Press. -
Rid, T. (2016). Rise of the Machines: a Cybernetic History. Highbridge. -
Ulmann, B. (2013). Analog computing. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag. -

Special thanks to Patreon supporters: Dmitry Kuzmichev, Matthew Gonzalez, Baranidharan S, Eric Sexton, john kiehl, Daniel Brockman, Anton Ragin, S S, Benedikt Heinen, Diffbot, Micah Mangione, MJP, Gnare, Dave Kircher, Edward Larsen, Burt Humburg, Blak Byers, Dumky, , Evgeny Skvortsov, Meekay, Bill Linder, Paul Peijzel, Mac Malkawi, Michael Schneider, Ludovic Robillard, jim buckmaster, Juan Benet, Ruslan Khroma, Robert Blum, Richard Sundvall, Lee Redden, Vincent, Stephen Wilcox, Marinus Kuivenhoven, Clayton Greenwell, Michael Krugman, Cy 'kkm' K'Nelson, Sam Lutfi, Ron Neal

Written by Derek Muller, Stephen Welch and Emily Zhang
Filmed by Derek Muller, Emily Zhang and Raquel Nuno
Animation by Fabio Albertelli, Jakub Misiek, Mike Radjabov, Ivy Tello, Trenton Oliver
Edited by Derek Muller
Additional video supplied by Getty Images
Music from Epidemic Sound and Jonny Hyman
Produced by Derek Muller, Petr Lebedev and Emily Zhang


  • I'm absolutely fascinated by these old mechanical computers. There was no software back then to design them, the device was designed within someone's imagination. Truly incredible.

    • @Hornius Maximus Guess drawing with pencils and basic drawing tools takes not only the "auto" out of "AutoCAD" but also the "computer" and the -"assist"- "aided". What remains ist just a "D".

    • @Andreas U. You can run AutoCAD with just some drawing tools and a pencil. Drafting is just decibels. You don't even need algebra, or calculus. Was pointless learning that when I did civil engineering and mechanical engineering.

    • The software to design those machines existed in your frontal cortex. The brain is a computer.

    • have you ever heard of the mechanical man that was made in i believe the 1800’s by a magician. it would be wound up then it played chess, picked up the pieces and placed them, and beat the best chess players in the world, believe it was unbeaten, one match was done before a king. think of something only mechanical and only was wound up, no computers, yet so advanced, i dont believe anyone ever figured out how it worked and secret died with the magicianhow it worked

  • The Jeppesen Flight Computer is an analogue computer still used by many pilots today. It calculates groundspeed, true airspeed, density altitude, drift, does imperial to metric conversions, and more, all by lining up a couple of metal disks and a slide. If your battery dies on your tablet, that old flight computer is there to save the day.

    • Who tf thinks pilots fly with tablets

    • @Andrew Watson So did my dad in WW2 in the RAF

    • @Maxence Leboeuf Jeppesen is a company, now a subsidiary of Boeing since 2000. (I had stock at that time). I think it's named after the founder , who began by selling aviation maps in the late 1920's or early 1930's. Creating the app was just a natural progression of the slide rule "Flight Computer" as mankind became more digital.

    • Is that what the Jeppesen app is named after?

    • @bubba_cypress My dad had one that he used in WW2. I'm going to guess late 1930s or early 1940s.

  • As someone who's OBSESSED with both computers and mathematics, I can't believe I never knew like, 80% of this before. My area of study for computational devices in college was always like, digital-style computers from the Lovelace era and onward, so those tide-predicting devices were something never brought up! How fascinating!

    • I agree, I can't get enough of computers and complex math, and while I'd heard of analog computers, I didn't know anything about them. The tide devices are incredible.

    • How many geniuses answered 1 to taking the experimental drug?

    • @SStupendous never said it was, all I Saud was nerd....didn't say if it was bad or good...quit reaching

    • @Korey Hayden Why don't you call him other things too? Yes, he's a 'nerd' perhaps; is that bad?

    • @𝖂hipped 𝕯ream doesn't make any less of a nerd

  • Analogue machines in the old style were objects of great beauty, and in many cases the result of superb craftsmanship. They were however very expensive, and had to be lovingly maintained, since they were prone to malfunction due to the build up of dirt. Inevitably too they gave inaccurate results. A secondary effect was cumulative error as a result of rounding errors in a lengthy calculation. On a personal level I used a slide rule for many years in my early career as a design engineer, but was blown away by my first electronic calculator - a Texas Instruments machine which by modern standards would be considered pathetic. That was in the 1970's. I shall look forward to viewing a further piece on a possible comeback for analogue computers, but am sceptical that they can ever overcome the problems inherent in this kind of machine.

    • I too had a TI with......Square Root!!! Logs!! Wow! For radio guy 1/2*pi sq rf( LC) for resonance a 10log ( Pwr out/pwr in) were daily calculations. Yes a log log slide rule worked but not previse. Book of tables more accurate but clumsey. Then a $350 calculator came out. Had first one for Motorola field engineering. Amazing. Now there are a few $$ at grocery ck out!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience with analog computers and the start of digital ones. I wonder if we can harness and or even deliberately engineer their cumulative errors for artificial intelligence research.

    • @Poly Hexamethyl " rounding errors is a problem with numerical algorithms even on digital computers " You make a very valid point. An example is the so-called " butterfly effect " which was discovered [ and named ] as a result of long digital computer calculations associated with meteorology modelling. It was discovered that after halting the iteration at a point, then introducing tiny rounding errors then resuming. the iteration produced very large and significant differences in the end result. This was dubbed the " butterfly effect ". Inevitably ever since then too many people have interpreted this literally and assume that the beat of a butterfly's wings can literally affect the future behaviour of the weather, which of course would be nonsensical. It did point out however that there is a practical limit to how many iterations of a complicated model will yield a useful result. In terms of meteorology the practical limit is a two-day forecast, and a three day forecast is of questionable value.

    • Accumulation of rounding errors is a problem with numerical algorithms even on digital computers and requires careful management. Analog computing elements are being used in the latest hardware for AI/neural networks.

    • @Nikunj Bhatt I think this is a key statement in this context. The idea of future analog computers is not to use such mechanical constructions, instead analog signals, electromagnetic. So you have OpAmps, R, C, and Ls, ASICs and similar, all integrated in silicon.

  • I used and helped develop analog computers in 1960's and early 70's. Gun aiming analog mechanical computers used gears and wheels . It considered ship vector and speed and distance to target. The disk/ball mechanism for integration mentioned were also part of it. Electronic ones used tube then transistor operational amplifiers with resistor input and feedback for aritmatic plus capacitor feedback for calculus anf special diode networks in input for trig. And so on. Moon landing simulator we made combined analog (to "think" ) and digitals with control for in/ out. Civil engineers and auto companies used analog pc's to optimize suspensions and roadside slope grading. Plotters as large as beds drew plans and curves far more accurate than primitive digitals. I used m9 in USAF.

    • I sincerely hope you would be willing to write about your experiences and publish them.

    • The electronic - non digital - Missile Test and Readiness system used with Polaris missiles had 4 different logic levels and used tons of relays to interpret them. Rumor was that the designer went mad and killed himself. Don't know if thats true, or just a manifestation of our fervent desire to wring his neck.

    • In 2000s, I helped to disassemble a big modular analog computer from 70s. It was pretty universal in its day, but mostly used to model the transients during a big electric motor startup. A big 20x20 switchboard, few electric drums for variable coefficients, everything an engineer could have wished for. As the students, our task was to grab the equations it was modelling and port it into MATLAB. A paltry Pentium-2 PC was quite faster and much more precise than that giant machine. After the model was ported, we together with the faculty's staff disassembled the computer and moved its modules into the humidity-controlled storage. They wanted to preserve them for history. Wonder if it's still in there...

    • I hope you have watched the video narrated by Spock titled “The Last Question”. If youre an AC pioneer, you’ll appreciate it. You guys are the golden age of engineering. Hats off.

  • I’m always amazed at how these guys were able to figure this stuff out so long ago. I had a hard enough time trying to understanding FFT and Laplace transform in my engineering classes today and I still feel like I don’t have a good hold.

    • @Dmitri Pogosian and those guys had just as many distractions as we have, just different types. Having Money, or hanging around money to get funding/money, was just as much of a freedom granter as today. If there wasn’t time for distractions for the average earners, how do we explain the sheer amount of religious, social, and alcohol establishments in basically every single small town or bigger city that’s investigated?

    • @Doctor Cthulhu You may notice that Fourier lived 200 years ago. Not to mention Laplace

    • @geisaune if you don’t think they had wild distractions back then, which older people also constantly complained about. I have this bridge in New York, I can sell you for dirt cheap. The exact way you derisively describe modern electronics as a distraction, is the way the older generation of their time derisively described distractions such as: radios, going to a movie theatre, sports, watching street performers, drinking, dating, etc… “The(My) older generations were better” mentality has been a well documented social problem since the 1700s. If you were an older man after WW2, you would have likely been with most others in society, publicly & angrily calling the younger *WW2 veterans* : “The Scared Rabbit Generation.” A claim mostly due to them staying home with their modern distractions, and “being scared of public places.” (Cartoonist, & WW2 veteran, Bill Maudlin was one of the biggest 1950s-60s voices in calling out the hypocrisy.)

    • Probably because they didn't have social media, the internet, smartphones, and television as constant distractions and it was actually possible for them to spend time thinking critically and creatively. Plus, all of those things, when used in an unhealthy way, can literally cause symptoms of addiction, literally change brain circuitry, and inhibit your ability to focus and think deeply. Tech companies deliberately design all of those things to be addictive.

    • History. History. History.

  • Chris from "Clickspring" is building an Antikytherean mechanism and has been building it using period tools and techniques to the best of the experts knowledge...the ww1/2 analog firing computers are still incredibly advanced and smartly built tbh. They are just insanely accurate for as little input as they take and what they can interpret and output for solutions

    • There was nothing wrong with the MK14 ​@John Beauvais -Bureau of Ordinance

    • Click spring Click spring

    • world war one half

    • My confusion is just that I do not know of any technological "environment" that has produced something remotely comparable Toothed brass gears - do you know of any other occurence of that in that time?

    • @Wynfrith Nichtwo I think Drachinifel made a video of those computers. Do you really want to see it in use? Chances are that someone is shooting back at you when it is used.

  • As a computer scientist I have to say man I got chills just watching the part where Kelvin came up with the mechanical computer .. this is just so inspiring !

  • These scientists were absolute GENIUSES and I’m just blown away at their accomplishments

    • It's incomprehensibly easier to become a data scientist today

  • It's amazing how smart those guys were who calculated the tides.

  • I had no idea about the history of tide computations. The presentation of the Fourier application is the best video that I ever saw. Even if I hadn't taken Calculus 30 years ago, there would have been a lot of understanding imparted from the stunning visual aids. The video also provides an appreciation of the genius (1% inspiration and 99% perspiration) of earlier generations.

  • I am a meteorology student and my university is very old fashioned. I had to do a lab course for meteorological instruments, and one of them involved using an analog computer to measure the humidity. The device contained human hairs and the computer was able to measure how much the hairs stretch and draw a graph of the humidity. The tutor asked me beforehand what I expected to see, and I said an exponential curve, and the thing really did draw a perfect exponential curve. I remember both my partner and I were kind of fascinated by it even though nobody would ever actually use such an archaic device anymore. Thinking about analog computers reminds me of another professor who claimed that every single physical thing that happens is a measurement, which is why the wave function in quantum mechanics collapses when it's observed. Thinking about it, building devices to mimic these measurements that God and the universe is constantly making makes a lot of sense.

  • The ball and disk integrator actually blew my mind. I cannot believe such a thing has existed and I only ever heard about it now. What a beautiful machine.

    • @Ryan Denziloe Every amazing invention seems obvious after it's already been made. Thousands of generations of humans, however, didn't come up with even the idea of a wheel, or screw, and similarly countless educated, intelligent humans never came up with this concept.

    • @Tomorrow Vi oh very cool, thank you very much

    • As having "needed" to provide assistance towards utilizing "Electronic Micro Computational Devices Choices And Needing To Write The Coding For Logical 4th Level Progr

    • Programming Languages", from scratch, Analog type and paper filing systems were my precious backup redundancy. That was my PC and Apple III attitude beginning around 1982. My attitude about Analog Devices combined with paperwork filing systems remains "unchanged" in December 26th 2021. These wonderful documentary videos clearly show that carving such information into stone tablets has been needed for Human Civilizations all over Earth for many thousands of years. A Very Strong Intent to provide information for "Future Humans"! Continue On!

  • Absolutely great video! The first person who added sine waves with Scotch Yoke was not William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) but Francis Bashforth (1819-1912). He built a Fourier synthesizer in 1845 for purely math purposes (equation solver). When Kelvin's tide predictors started to become famous he tried to make his priority known but it didn't work very well. His paper "A description of a machine for finding numerical roots of equations" was reprinted in 1892.

  • I dropped out of school, regrettably, but whenever I find your channel while scrolling, I always seem to pay more attention than I did in school. You've taught me more than most of the people who were paid to teach me, and for that I appreciate you V, keep up the good work!

    • No worries, school does not have anything to do with wisdom, inteliigence etc. and the knowledge can be fill in

  • Fun fact: the fire directors on the Iowa Battleships were all analog, and were never replaced because they were so accurate.

  • My mom used to work on an analog computer in the 1940's. She worked in a comptometer office when they got this "new machine." She never called it a computer but as She described it my mouth nearly dropped. I was in college learning programming at the time and we had recently gone over the history of computing. She said it had a bunch of wires and plugs and dials and flashing lights. Her boss couldn't figure it out so he gave her the manual to figure it out.

  • I've worked with computers my whole life. I had the first calculator of anyone at my high school. Then the first programmable calculator, then the first computer. I'd heard of analog computers, but I never knew anything about them. The tide calculations using the Fourier transform was brilliant!

  • This is a phenomenal explainer!

    • i heart edutisements. more tesla!

    • Yes and he is phenomenally often wrong.

    • Yeah just take it all in and believe it - let him do your thinking for you

    • Concur Wholeheartedly!!!

    • How to drink bro I'm thirsty

  • When you brought up dive bombers, i thought you were gonna talk about the automatic dive recovery system that helped pilots avoid lawn darting into Terrain if they were too tunnel visioned

  • The last few videos veritasium has put out have all been incredible and of stellar quality. Seriously the best educational videos i have seen on youtube. Thank you so much for the awesome content!!!

  • Looking forward to part 2. Hope you guys are okay as we've not had anything new for a couple of months now.

  • OK. This is probably the most impressed ive been by the mechanical inventive mind of humans. Especially accomplished in such a short time. Just. Wow.

  • I am constantly humbled by the enormous amount of work and ingenuity that went into machines I have taken for granted.

  • As a total software person I find these mechanical devices so fascinating and clever. Those people coming up with them were geniuses.

    • @Joseph mhfd That sentence doesn't even make grammatical sense. There is no forbidden history of mankind, and our history certainly goes back much further than 10,000 years. Only a fool would believe otherwise.

    • @Lil Yeet 🏳‍🌈⃠ Well, in a few years time, what you use today will be old technology too. But EVERYTHING you see today is built upon the incremental work of people who came before them. For example, without vacuum tubes, the transistor would not exist, which means no solid state electronics, so no microprocessors. Without the historical work on magnetism, we wouldn't have electricity, so no electronics at all. Give credit to those who gave us the foundations of what we have today.

    • @抺香膏馬利亞 That is absolutely incorrect. The term "Computer" actually referred originally to people whose job it was to 'compute' calculations by hand. It didn't refer to electronic machines until much later on. A calculator is a computer, and they can be digital, analogue, electronic or mechanical.

    • Anything that is the result of multiple man years of work is almost always like magic. That is, until you sit down and deconstruct the history of the creation of the device.

  • Totally immersing Veritasium! Your graphics are world class and the concepts you introduce absolutely enthralling. Thank you.

  • Stunning work, both in engaging presentation and breaking these complex concepts down to be understandable.

  • Amazing how much effort is put into your videos be it the history, working and structure behind complex machinery, the animations, editing and the list goes on....

  • Fourier math has always fascinated me, and I had no idea that analog computers like this were used like this. My mind is blown - truly inspirational video.

  • I've been watching your channel for years, and some of the videos are hit and miss for me, but this Analog series may your greatest uploads yet. This is revolutionary. Thank you for sharing, I will be looking forward to part 2

  • It's so crazy how adding or multiplying sine waves, something that's as simple as punching values into a calculator today, used to require some unbelievable engineering. I mean, just the notion of such an advanced mechanical computer makes my head hurt. The things we do today would be seen as magic many years ago. Great video!

    • @shortcat but it requires physical things, digitally(in real digital computer/"internet of things") you only download an IDE, for a programming language and you can create your own calculator, save the piece of code for more projects and improve it without problem at any time, just by compiling again.

    • @shortcat but it requires physical things, digitally you only download an IDE, for a programming language and you can create your own calculator, save the piece of code for more projects and improve it without problem at any time, just by compiling again.

    • On the opposite, the analogue computer seems so clever yet simple and efficient. It consists of just a few elements as opposed to millions in a simplest digital calculator, which also requires billions steps to add two sinewawes. No wonder they are coming back!

    • Dont calculators do sine/cosine through power series?

    • Isn't this undermining the fact that a calculator is an even greater feat of engineering?

  • I've wondered how and when there would be a merging of digital and analog with infinite data points ever since being annoyed at stairstepping in printed fonts. Applications in photography and visual displays as well as audio would be just the beginning that people can easily imagine. The more profound advancements would come from what most of us have never imagined.

    • Yes! This is the way

  • So could this mean that analog computers could potentially come back in the form of magnetic tape? Also, it is interesting to learn that machine learning is a concept that predates even Alan Turing’s concepts and is a field that is far older than I had initially thought.

  • Excellent presentation. When I was doing my aerospace masters in 1981, I had a project to simulate an unstable combat aircraft and then to add the effect of an active control system to stabilise and control it. This was all analogue using potentiometers and amplifiers. The reason was that analogue computers have the immediate response needed to bring a dynamically unstable systems under control without introducing nuisance and limit cycle oscillations. All artificial stability systems for aircraft at the time had an active end built as an analogue computer, even if the pilot input end was still digital. It was a very powerful lesson. As my tutor observed, in general with digital systems you can have fast or you can have powerful. With analogue computing, it's possible to make the sensor the source of power (as in aerodynamic servo tabs, the BAe146 regional jet has an entirely analogue pitch control system involving a devious concoction of pneumatic, aerodynamic and inertial devices), the result can be both fast (=responsive) and powerful.

  • @Veritasium another reason why it took so many shells in WW1 was that many (if not all) planes were cloth covered, and could remain airworthy taking hundreds of hits. The only effective way to bring down a cloth plane is to damage the engine or kill the pilot. Love the video! Just wanted to bring this up

  • Great video ! Waiting for part 2. Not sure why Turing’s efforts weren’t included. Hoping to see them in part 2.

  • This was astoundingly relevant to--almost a summary of--my History of Science: The Digital Age course, for which I have a final for tomorrow. This video is practically a 'further reading' section. Thank you for this.

    • And then some people just dismiss it all and claim a magic man is the solution to all and everything

    • @Pierre Kuchmann and yet without imagination neither would exist.

    • Imagination ≠ logical thinking and math understanding

    • @C E you said that you hoped he failed on his test. And I asked you why you feel that way.

    • @C E why?

  • Okay, I really like the way this guy does sponsored content. Instead of slapping it in the middle where it interrupts content, he puts it at the end! That's a very respectable thing to do! And for my opinions on the rest, it's really interesting seeing how mechanical computers work! I've always had a fascination with stuff like clockwork, and what is a clock but a basic mechanical computer? Thank you for this video!

  • My father served in the U.S. Army from Jan 2, 1942 until September 1945. He told me about the Norden bomb sight. That means he was deeply impressed with the promises it made. He served in a specialized "signals radio intelligence" unit. His granddaughter today is in the U.S. Navy serving in a "signals radio intelligence" capacity. The tools have changed in 75 years, but the mission has not.

  • Was at the wavefront of the analog-to-digital resolution in engineering. During an experimental study with large lasers in 1986, we took data with high speed 16mm film, but was able to digitize the outline of hand drawings made from the film on an artist's bench. From the digitized data, we could compute laser irradiance. 16mm is gone and digital cameras are must faster. Programs change the images to outlines, and combining the time stamp from each digital frame, we can get the same data in about....10 milliseconds. A little faster than the three hours we used to need.

  • It's truly astounding as to how we've significantly progressed with the technology we have now. We're really living in an age of innovation!

  • Analog computers also would be a great tool for maths classes. Our teacher was absolutely horrible at explaining integral to us. Having a mechanical device to help with it would've been great.

  • When I was learning to be an engineer back in the early '70s, analog computers were on the way out the door. Large-scale integration was beginning, and Moore's Law was a new concept that my professor's predicted was going to revolutionize computers. Fifty years later I am retired after a career in digital computing, and now I find that analog is making a comeback. I am looking forward to part 2; I know enough about analog computer that I can anticipate some of the application for which they will be useful. I suspect the improvements in electronics, and perhaps even 3D printing of components will produce new and sophisticated analog machines. Makes me wish I was 20 again, so I could have a second career in analog! Please keep making these videos - you are doing valuable work. 👍

    • I bet your college education didn't cost $80,000 either.

    • ​@Fnors " Things like a thermostat or a light switch are not analog _computers_". Maybe switch is not a "computer" (depending on definition...), but im pretty sure, thermostats are computers. Because You have two inputs data and one output data. In input data You have measured temperature and temperature setting. You need to compare this two data and send result to output. When one is higher and second one is lower, then output is 0 (off). When difference is opposite, then output is 1 (on). This computation can be both in analog and digital way. In analog way, we need just single opamp (operational amplifier) to do this job. More of that, to make hysteresis its just two resistors. This two resistors are making positive feedback loop with highly reduced feedback by this two resistors (basically its typical voltage divider). Single and modern opamp You can buy with ~0.3$. If You wanna do this thing with microcontroller (small CPU with memory in same case), then microcontroller will cost about 10 times more, and You need more parts outside microcontroller (ADC, crystal oscillator, etc) to do this simple job.

    • @Norbert Kiszka I'm not sure we are talking about the same thing. Things like a thermostat or a light switch are not analog _computers_. You don't use them to compute things. I'm talking about analog VS digital _computers_. Not for machines in general. It's _way_ easier to make/use a digital computer to do your taxes than make/build some analog machine that will do it for you. My point is that with a digital computer, you can use the same machine to do taxes for any state or country. You only have to change the code, not the machine itself. And you can use it for _other_ stuff the rest of the year. With the analog computer, you would need to rebuild and/or physically modify it to do taxes for a different state. Even Kelvin's machine shown in the video is only usable to compute tidal data. If you want to do something else with it you need to change pieces and manually adjust the speed of the spinning discs. No matter how precise an analog computer can be, there's no denying that a digital computer is more versatile and, up until recently, easier to improve. Which can help explains why digital has been the focus for computers instead of analog. Still, I do agree that adding a computer to a light switch is generally pretty wasteful.

    • ​@Fnors Yes, but no. For simplest things, there is no need for doing this in digital way, because this is a shot from a cannon to a fly - too expensive for simple task. Do You have 2GHz CPU inside electric switch for turning light on in a room? I think this is a just a plastic with tiny amount of metal alloys. Same thing when You want to half of light or thermal regulation and nothing more - then doing it analog will make it same or even more precise with much less money.

    • @Norbert Kiszka I'm not talking about today's methods or items. If you go back 50-60 years ago though, pursuing digital computers made more sense. You build/buy one good digital computer (for the period) and you can use it for dozens of things. All you need is a different program. You would need to buy/build/modify/tune one analog computer for every single application you might need. Costs would've been prohibitive back then. It just made more sense to improve digital computers, both practically and economically. Especially since digital computers have the advantage of being easy to improve: you basically just need to add more CPUs, RAM and storage to make your current computer better. No need for more precise or higher quality components. You only need more. It's definitely not as easy to do with analog. Doubling a component won't reduce the error or improve the precision of the components themselves.

  • I've been so excited for the next one - I hope it comes soon! Your videos are a long wait sometimes but always master pieces

  • Wow crazy well researched and presented video derek! Very thought provoking and quite the interesting series of events and stories. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Wonderful stuff! I also love the peculiar irony of all these ingenious analogue devices being modelled by (admittedly very fast) digital programs - all those composed graphs, ray-tracings and 3D models... Is that a positive feedback loop? LOL. As others have already remarked, we are really at the start of a new era of scientific understanding. Congratulations. See yourself as a pioneer!

  • The feeling when your brain is such an absolute unit that the computer you designed was in active use for almost 100 years. I love science!☺

  • Man, such immersive information and explained in a very understandable manner is just awesome.

  • The analog computers used by navies during the First and Second World Wars are amazing technological feats. The inputs are the continuous, relative motions of opposing ships and the outputs are a synchronous stream of firing solutions.

    • Thank You.

    • The US Navy was still using pure analog computers for gun fire control into the 70s and possibly early 80s. In the early 70s I worked on the fire control radar for the Tartar missile system and at that time our system was a mixture of analog and digital.

    • @Dave Byrne different tech entirely

    • @Dave Byrne that hole was filled in immediately the war ended...

    • @Dave Byrne It became a important piece of equipment to the Allies due to it’s increased accuracy with pinpointing the exact location for detonation.

  • Beautifully put! 👏 I'm not a professor or something, but i do understand that both ways have their own pro's and cons, perhaps it's all about personal preference of reading out data because in the end, when our knowledge over both technologies in collaboration is at its peak, it wouldn't matter anyway. Digital programming will make computers work and fine craftsmanship will make analog computers work.

  • as an instrumentation control technician it’s cool seeing my field of work and the fundamentals/history of instruments be talked about it gives you another level of understanding and interest

  • 10:00 For calculating harmonic component you need two multipliers ( sin and cos ) , not only one as shown (and some square / root / add) . Otherwise a very good explanation and well documented history . Not to mention a good animation describing the machines !

  • It's funny that I do all of this on my phone in a matter of maybe 10 minutes just for fun using graphing calculators. I've actually considered how tedious it must have been for early mathematicians to perform fourier transforms by hand. I assumed the famous ones had an apprentice to do all of the menial calculations and such. But that's a lot of trust to trust that they did all of those calculations without making a single orror out of fatigue from doing math for 16 hours a day.

  • Analogue computers have never really died off. There are some great videos on old naval ship firing solution solvers and they are some awesome analogue computers.

  • My grandad was a bomber pilot in the RAF in WW2, his crew was occasionally given new devices to test, one of them was a machine that contained a moving map that was small enough to strap to their thigh. This map would rotate around rollers and update to show the terrain he was flying over regardless of visibility to the ground. The whole crew thought it was incredible and provided great feedback to the engineers that developed it. But as was often the case it was taken away after testing and they never got it back for the rest of the war. Always been curious what that machine was, how it worked and why it was taken away if it seemed to be working.

    • @Reality Quotient Thanks super interesting that was my guess that it had to be so specific to the flight plan it ultimately wasn't scalable.

    • There was a similar device used in autos. It was basically a map of your route printed on a strip of paper that would unroll as you drove, and it was connected to the odometer to keep it synchronized. Look up the Iter Avto which apparently dates back to 1930. The obvious downside is that if you stray off-course it's not self-correcting.

    • .

    • Wow

    • Leaving a dot here for the answer .

  • I'm so impressed with your ability to disect any subject no matter how complex, like this one. My brain stumbles and spins trying to keep pace, but at leat I manage, only thanks to your excellent work! I was sure I already was subscribed, but I wasn't! I corrected that immediately!

  • Wow! You just blew my mind away! I’ve been working with electronics form the era of the vacuum tube valves all the way to modern computation and microcontrollers. Lord Kelvin and the magic he made certainly overwhelmed me but what’s even better was the way in which man could think and produce these amazing things, both horrible as well as incredible. Thank you. I loved this one.

    • That's awesome that you went through that transition in electronics & survived.

  • Laplace… what an extraordinary human being. Just incredible. Not only did he know the math to describe it but then to make a machine to do it? Analog computers can’t ever get short circuited. Crazy how he was able to visualize all of that.

  • Something about seeing some Valves stuck together to make an OP-amp really makes me happy, it satisfies my nostalgia for analog tech. I didn't realise they were so old

  • I used to work in an area that had 4 high and 4 low tides per day. The area's geography greatly magnified solar tides - we named them the low and high high tide, and the low and high low tide. The tides interacted with each other on a rotating roughly two week cycle.

  • This presentation, on this channel, may be my all-time favorite. As a software engineer, I am blown away and humbled by the innovations of people like Lord Kelvin. I absolutely loved the organization and flow of this presentation.

    • Praise Bob

    • @David S Which country are you talking about? If you're in the USA you already have some of the nicest things in history. If you want to make history, change the world. If you want to make money, appeal to the average masses.

    • Agreed! Their entire production is the very highest in quality. Just reviewing the references on this 1 video alone says a lot. It really is one of the best science channels on ID-tv. When I think about this other youtuber...a 20-something year old turd who's worth $20M from making imbecilic, "how dumb can we get in 20 minutes on this video?" while he's driving a Bently down Sunset Blvd in We-Ho, w/ his model girlfriend, who wouldn't give him the time of day except for his $20M, his Bently, his mansion & his fame. No wonder this country can't have nice things.

  • I remember growing up i would go to the nc battleship memorial. And i remember reading a plaque that the analog computers on board with the right operators were just as fast and accurate as digital computers. Granted they were making a comparison to 1980's computers. But nothing on that ship was digital. And it survived ww2 and racked up an impressive number of victories. So those guys working those old analog targeting systems really knew their stuff. Even back then they could hit targets several miles away. And account for the target moving. That is impressive.

  • Double thumbs up. I really appreciate the work you put into this. Thank you!

  • This is amazing. Thompson's multiplier integral is very similar to how you would perform convolution of 2 analog signals on a paper. I remember my Uni prof. Teaching it as sliding one function across the other and taking the integral.

    • I don't understand this but it seems brilliant.

  • What fascinates me the most is not the fact that mankind built such great technologies over the past centuries, but how fast they integrated them in wars.

  • Thank you for what you do @Veritasium! You are truly an inspiration to me to stay curious!

  • I do want to point out on the rather incredibly improvement of shells/kill ratios of Allied AA guns: that wasn't solely down to better maneuvering of the guns. Planes are fast and small, so hitting them in three dimensional space is really difficult. The Americans and the British jointly developed the proximity fuse, basically a way for the shell to detect when it was near an enemy plane and detonate, and this at least removed the third dimension from their aim, making them much more accurate.

    • @chris schaefer Not trenches built properly, with overhead protection.

    • @Brian Alleman yes quite amazing they could make valve tech tiny and able to withstand the massive g's being shot out of a gun. I'd rate these shells as equivalent to the moon landing computer as a technology pushed well beyond what could have normally be thought possible at the time.

    • @SToXC_ well obviously the 3rd dimension isn't physically removed xD I think a good intuitive comparison is hunting. To kill a running animal, a hunter needs to hit a very small spot by leading the shot precisely. It's difficult and depends on speed and distance. Now your bullet transforms into a flying bomb that explodes and kills the animal if it hits anywhere within a 5 meter radius. Essentially the target transforms from a vital organ the size of fist into a barn. That's a big big target to hit, and even with speed and distance still affecting things, their influence became tiny in comparison.

    • @Emerson Peters yeah exactly, the plane still moves in 3 dimensions, what changes is that you may still hit even if your shell didnt actually touch the plane :/

    • This would not remove the third dimension, it would only make it so they need to be less accurate...

  • Analog computers were used in Poland in the 70's and 80's. Saw that at the technical university in the 90's as a curiosity. You brought those memories back.

  • Very very awesome how machines are built. Very inspiring and interesting. Wish you make more videos around this area🥰😇

  • What a great talk. I remember hearing a story about analog computers for use in naval gunnery; they were used to keep the guns level at the target in rolling seas. When they tried to replace them with digital computers they found the digital computers were too slow to compensate for the movement of the ship, and had to go back to analog controls. It took a couple of decades of digital computer development before the digital computers were fast enough to replace the analog ones.

  • Wow! Wonderful story. Analog computing is all kinds of handy. I worked on a blood analyzer design once. My role was stepper motor control, but the real magic was in the analog computing that analyzed color absorption in the samples. Fascinating stuff. Do I sense upcoming presentations about continuous variable quantum computing?

  • As a music producer, this is blowing my mind with how they can break everything down to sine waves in math as well

  • The problem with analog computers is that there will always be some slop in the connections between parts; the problem with digital computers is that always there will be cosmic particles to malfunction it. :-)

    • There's ways around that, or to add to "equation"

    • Grace Jackson better than no computer like after a emp attack or a natural magnetic pulse in are solar system

    • @Johnny Fedora I wasnt actually referring to the video mate, it was just a passing comment, that is also true. But alas you worry to much, we have dozens of computers in space right now, erm, yea we loose one here and there to such issues, but in general if we are careful, we can get by and who knows the future may show us a way to avoid it entirely, with maybe quantum computing etc, crystals etc, the future is not set and we are not likely to stay on this type of computer tech for all that long in evolutionary terms, 100 years from now even, our current PC tech might be a total thing of the past.......Open your mind, and this channel makes a lot of mistakes also, scientific mistakes........

    • @Pauly piddlefoot, when a bit flips in a computer memory or circuit because of a cosmic ray hit, it's humans' fault? Cool story.

    • The real problem with computers are, humans.

  • We took our Boy Scout Troop to the Battleship Texas for a Overnight stay. It Turns out it was the First Battleship in WWII to have Analog Computers Controlling the Guns. Being a Electrician I thought it was Amazing to see. They had to drag me away almost from all the Relay Banks because I was Figuring out the Relay Logic they were using. I really thought it was incredible. It wasn’t just the Big Guns that using Analog Computers. It was all the Guns on the Ship. Great Piece of Engineering for back in WWII.

  • It's simply amazing how far we have advanced technologically.

  • :57 Can I make a request/suggestion? When you film stuff like this? Is it possible to get an angled closeup shot so we can see how this works as you’re turning the wheels? You could have just put 3 Lego pulleys and moved them manually saying there was some mechanical computer behind why they turn the way they do. I nerd out on stuff like that and I find it an absolute must that I see how the gears, pullys, etc behind the 3 pulleys are making them move like that. If I can’t see how they are moving it doesn’t really teach me anything. I’m still watching the video on my living room tv and had to get on my phone to leave this comment or else i will forget. I wish there was more stuff like this on ID-tv. And when I first saw this ancient computer on ancient aliens, I wanted to see more of it. So thank you!

  • It looks to me like we can make our mechanical integrator using an old style mouse, the type with a ball and optical encoders. They're probably hard to find now though.

  • I wish someone would actually make the Antikythera for people to buy, that would be an awesome piece to use at home.

  • My physics teacher used to tell us that digital computers would never catch on because of their limited accuracy, and those analog computers were going to be big. That was in the UK in the 1960s. Since then, I have been laughing about that and thinking “How wrong can you be!!”. But, well, maybe he knew something… let’s wait and see.

    • "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." - Thomas Watson

    • @J Are you saying that the y2k bug was not real at all? The anticipation of a catastrophe was over exaggerated, yes, but the bug was real. It was mostly addressed before January 1st 2000, that's all.

    • False like the y2k bug computers will always be key

    • currently optical "computers" seem to be the next thing for deep learning. Not because of accuracy, but because of power efficiency.

    • maybe he was talking about quantum computers...

  • I can safely say that this is one the most informative videos I ever saw in my entire life.

  • I see some of the comments of how amazing and paradigm shifting this video was and I definitely echo those sentiments! It's been a week since watching part 1 and 2 but I'm still thinking about it. A thought almost literally struck me today. Since Analog computers are able to model random systems, like you demonstrated in part one. Are Analog computers better than digital computers at predicting a chaotic system, like lets say, turbulent flow like in your previous video. I was thinking it might be because of the fact that an analog computer is demonstrating what's actually happening in the physical world. It's so awesome!! Maybe someone on here can give me an answer because I'm just burning to know! I'm a huge fan of your videos, you often tackle difficult to explain topics that not many science communicators will not touch! Thank you for your work on this platform!

  • Thats freaking awesome! Im about to visit Greece for summer, i hope i can visit museums as much as possible! This civilization was Great. Greetings from Russia!

  • A great video. I was trained, in the early 1970s, on aircraft analogue computers. The ball and disc resolver was a key part of many British V-bomber systems. Following on from these mechanical systems perhaps you could find something on magnetic amplifiers? These were calculating amplifiers much more robust than the thermionic tubes or the early transistors of the day.

  • Your Lego computers (which are awesome, by the way), a long with your discussion of computing parts getting close to their minimum size, give one big hint as to why analog computers might be coming back. Your analog computer is MUCH smaller and has MANY fewer parts than the digital computer. That's because it's designed specifically for the task it's doing, rather than forcing a simple system whose core components have nothing to do with the problem at hand to indirectly solve it.

  • Kelvin's tide machines are my single most favourite things. I remember seeing them for the first time in the London Science Museum over 30 years ago. Small nitpick. The pics you show when mentioning Colossus are actually the Bombe machines used to crack Enigma, not the machine used to crack the Lorentz codes. Everyone forgets Konrad Zuse and his early computers. These were earlier and more advanced than the ENIAC. But since he was German, and developed them during WW2, history has not been kind.

    • ​ @Vigilant Cosmic Penguin Turing-completeness alone isn't what defines a _modern computer_ and cutting the marvel that the Z3 was down to that is very disrespectful especially when you're considering that the ENIAC could only get reprogrammed by rewiring it, while Zuse even conceived the worlds first High-level programming language called "Plankalkül". To prove just how advanced the Z3 was here's a list of the features it would combine as a system: - Use of the binary number system - Floating point number calculation - Input and output devices - Possibility of user interaction during the calculation process - Microprograms - Pipelining of instruction sequences - Numerical special values - Parallel execution of operations All of the things listed above are insanely important features that you'll find within any modern computer system and cutting it down to its lack of Turing-completeness (which is very important never the less) is rather silly.

    • Boost this comment

    • a Polish mathematician and cryptologist who in late 1932 reconstructed the sight-unseen German military Enigma cipher machine, aided by limited documents obtained by French military intelligence

    • @Vigilant Cosmic Penguin Actually, in a purely theoretical sense, it was. You can read Raul Rojas' 1997 paper on this topic. But indeed, you're totally right that in any practical sense, it really wasn't.

    • Ah yes, Konrad Zuse. I used his computers as an example in an assignment about early and new computers, and how they've changed. History has definently not been kind. Sources for Konrad's work was few and far between, especially using the school chromebooks lol.

  • Went to look for part two. Very disappointed its not there yet. Cannot wait. Love your channel.

  • I am now starting binge watching all veritassium videos of the last 11 years. Pure fun!

  • The Nike anti-aircraft missile system guidance computer was fully analog until the late seventies, early eighties. It needed quite some maintenance, but worked like a charm.

  • I can’t imagine what humans would have done with 3D printers and the internet and computers back then if they ever got their hands on them to build these things.

  • What an absolutely fascinating video. I've been extensively working on theory using physics with the stock market, and your explanation of the frequencies of Tides and deconstructing them across time frames has given me some very interesting ideas

  • As a computer engineer, I was always told that every one has always dreamed to build analog computer because of the enormous performance potential over digital computers. However, it's not that engineers are dumb, that's not that simple. There is the precision and noise problem that you pointed out, digital component can easily erase noise and restore a digital signal which is very interresting to transmit data over the distance. But in that's not the most important point. We are curently already creating quantum compter which require extreme precision, but there isn't any decisive project for analog computers yet. In fact in the case of computing the true game changer is timing! Most analog components have time based behaviours, they use analog values of physical constants like voltage, intensity, etc. that doesn't change instantly because they tightly binded to physics laws. When you have a few component moving over a few minutes like old computers presented in the video, it's no big deal, but the nightmare start when you try assembling million, billion or even more of them and syncronizing them at the micro-second or nano-second. And th is not a trivial problem. On the other side, the main advantage of digital gates is that they are syncronized on a clock. There is a regular clock in your computers (today usually around 4 GHz) and all the memory cells that store bits of data in your computer change there state at the same time when this clock tic. The clock period is designed to be long enough to be sure that every electronic component in the whole computer chip had the time it needed to update its electric state and stabilize its value. Some components would probably take less time than that, but in the end we are garanteed that all electronic signals are stable and reliable. Just with that hypothesis all simulation tools and computer designer can make an enormous simplification by just ignoring all time related physical behaviour and instead focus on a much much much simpler finit state automata. If you look at a processor simulation tool used by computer architects you would not see anything related to voltage, intensity, or physic equations, because all of that is neglected and instead we can focus on much simpler binary signals. In fact I lied a bit, in practice at the level of miniaturization we reached, we still had to deal with noise, interferance, etc. but that's mostly solved globaly by building robust components and adding shielding around chips when needed, an not by solving the exact physical equaltion between every single electronic components. It's not that no body tried to do analogus computer but, in history, since the transistor was invented, it has always been simpler and more efficient to reduce complexity with digital computing and compensating by an increased clock speed, adding more parallel transitors computation or a more optimized chip architecture, that trying to work out the complexe equations of billions of analogous electronic components. It's a little bit like an intersection with traffic lights. It's theoritically possible that everyone pass the intersection at almost full speed by precisely computing everyone's speed. But since cars became widely used, we all accepted that its safer to sync everybody using traffic lights in a binary way.

    • @thewiirocks you are speaking of quantum computing… i was talking about the workings of quantum mechanics

    • @Physicist at Home Right. But then there’s a gate at the end of the computation that forces a digital value again. So digital in, digital out with analog computing in the soft, nuggety center.

    • @thewiirocks the transition from binary, digital computation into qubit based quantum interaction requires a one way function in the form of one or more algorithms. Once it is in quantum space, the only digital transmission is operational in guiding the analog, photon-based entanglement

    • ​@Kasonnara yeah, i got it, it's about efficiency, and case of use. I guess that we going to find a bunch of cases to use both types of computers, and i was wondering about hybrid computers too, never saw nothing new since VLSI hybrid chip

    • @Natã Henrique In fact, you can use your digital computer to run a simulation that emulate the behaviour of an analog computer, and so solve the same problems. It will be painfully innefficient throught. Without going into those lengths, I'm confident that digital computers could solve most of the problems we will ever face on our daily lives so I don't expect them to disapear any time soon. That said same argument goes for quantum processors and graphic cards too. you can solve the same problems with a regular CPU, but their advantage is that for some specific sets of tasks (like rendering an entire screen of millions of pixels for example for a GPU) they are way way faster than CPU. And ths we use both of them. In quantum compting you can look about qantum supremacy, where scientist have solved a task that can be solved by a quantum computer in hours, while it would have taken years for the biggest regular computer in the world to solve it, thus these kind of problems are considered "impossible for regular computers in a reasonable amout of time" Back about digital computers, I would guess that moden machine learning algorithms like neural networks that eavily rely on agregating, weighing and derivating large amount of values could exploit well the strengths of a digital computer, but i'm mostly guessing here.

  • Better late than never, that was incredibly interesting and brilliantly presented.

  • Brilliant show. Way above the fray, and always entertaining.

  • Wonderful video, beautifully put together, very well explained in layman's terms.

  • Proximity fuses also greatly increased the kill rate of antiaircraft fire, pretty cool getting glass vacuum tubes to survive being fired out of a cannon.

  • 1) obviously the one who come up with this is genius 2) the one who manages to crafting this computer with such precision is a hidden genius

  • As an engineer,I understood everything he said but cannot fathom to think it on my own, if my teachers or lecturers showed a minimum effort, I would be satisfied. The state of education in my country

  • Excellent video. I want to propose a theme for your next videos. It's about the accuracy of historical chronology. I think many people take for granted that historical dates are infallible, when the reality is that many are often inaccurate. Greetings

  • I almost feel smarter for almost understanding the intricacies that thus video goes into . Understanding/ deciphering nature is sometimes fun .

  • I was a field engineer for Electronics Associates Inc., the largest manufacturer of analog computers in the 60's and 70's. I traveled all over, but the last year was at NASA Ames. Among other things, the navigation 8-ball used in the Apollo program was developed on our computers. They were state of the art at time time. We later combined them with digital computers. The complex computations were handled with ease on the analog portion and the raw number crunching was done on the digital computer. All together we had around 15 large scale analog computers on site at NASA Ames filling entire rooms and involved in all aspects of their various missions from spaceflight to life science studies. Analog computers speak to engineers in their language--mathematics. Digital computers require interpretation between languages.