Did you see my article Reinventing the Computer, which was published in today's edition of EE Times? This was sparked by a mega-cool relay computer that was created by Professor Harry Porter III, who is a lecturer at Portland State University. (You can find out more about this little rapscallion on Harry's Website).
Well, I'm tremendously enthused about this. Do you recall the American cartoonist and illustrator Reuben Lucius Goldberg (1883-1970)? His British counterpart was William Heath Robinson (1872-1944). Both of these guys were famous for creating illustrations of machines that were intended to perform relatively simple tasks, but whose implementations were incredibly complex such that they performed their tasks in exceedingly convoluted and indirect ways.
The point is that I'm pondering the idea of creating a mixed-technology computer out of relays, vacuum tubes, transistors, and simple silicon chips, along with a variety of cunning pneumatic and hydraulic components, and I'm calling this project the Heath Robinson Rube Goldberg Computer. I don't know if it will ever get off the ground, but I'm keeping an on-going log of my thoughts (and any other ideas anyone wishes to contribute) in a paper entitled HRRB Computer Project that I threw together on my website over the weekend.
So, what do you think? Do you have any ideas for cool and unusual technologies we could use? I'll be happy to add your thoughts to this paper (I will of course give full attribution to you, so that everyone knows who to blame!). Feel free to email me at email@example.com. And, as usual, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.