How Computers Compute (Science Out Loud S2 Ep5)



Even though we think of computers as super high-tech machines with tiny parts, they can also be huge, wooden, and mechanical. It’s what they have in common that makes them computers – switches!
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made with love at MIT
Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-SA, MIT

Hosted by: Jamie Teherani
Written by: Jamie Teherani
Additional scripting: Elizabeth Choe, George Zaidan

Executive producer: Elizabeth Choe
Director: George Zaidan
Editor: Per Hoel
Production assistant: Ryan Pelletier

Music: “Tokyo Street” by airtone (
“Dazed” by airtone (
“Sometimes” by airtone (

Special thanks: MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (
National Science Foundation (
Center for Energy Efficient Electronics Science (

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See also  Internet of Things (IoT) | What is IoT | How it Works | IoT Explained | Edureka
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27 Comments

Elias Harrison

now i can see 5 Minute Crafts making a "no electricity computer DIY" video

Foosh UCSD

Got to love a mechanical computer! I feel like this would be a fascinating thing to make as a high school project. It seems like binary isn't really taught in K-12 Education, though.

David Townsend

Why would anyone downvote this? I might now understand how computers work but will never understand the illogical machines using them.

anwesh peddineni

"A computer is just a carefully constructed arrangement of switches" this is my first time knowing this.

Mark Arca

2:16 – An 8-bit octet (it has a decimal [base 10, but computers understand only binary values – 0 and 1] value of 0-255; 256-1, since we start counting from 0.

Mark Arca

0:39 – If A AND B is TRUE, C is TRUE, otherwise it's FALSE.
0:43 – If A OR B (or both of them) is TRUE, C is TRUE, otherwise it's FALSE.

Nazareth Sander

Unlike other professors who try to create or intense your fear of understanding the concepts, your simple explanation, and illustration of how a computer works make one want to draw out more information with a renewed sense of confidence in comprehending a complex subject in simple language.

Varun Alur

Oh my god , this video taught me a lot . Actually opened my eyes . Thanks MIT

i thought 3 in binary would be 100, whereby 4 would be 1000. apparently i gotta learn how to count in binary!

Eric Hawk

The Digicomp II is not a universal computer (not Turing Complete). Isn't the Digicomp I a true universal mechanical digital (3 bit) computer?  Could someone expand that and show a mechanical computer able to do useful computations exceeding human abilities (if not in speed, in duration without error)?

charles mcdowell

heh i actually have an associates degree in computer networking and been working in IT for about 5 years but this was very educational even for me. I don't know if that's sad or good lol.

Jason Burton

I've been looking for a good way to explain how computers work to my friends and family for a long time. This is the best explanation I've seen yet. I'll be referring them to this video from now on. Well done!

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