Unconventional computing

Unconventional computing is computing by any of a wide range of new or unusual methods. It is also known as alternative computing.

The term of "unconventional computation" was coined by Cristian S. Calude and John Casti and used at the "First International Conference on Unconventional Models of Computation",[1] held in Auckland, New Zealand in 1998.[2]


The general theory of computation allows for a variety of models. Historically, however, computing technology first developed using mechanical methods, and eventually evolved into using electronic techniques, which remain the state-of-the-art. Further development may require development of new technologies.[why?]

Computational modelEdit

Mechanical computingEdit

Historically, mechanical computers were used in industry before the advent of the transistor.

Mechanical computers retain some interest today both in research and as analogue computers. Some mechanical computers have a theoretical or didactic relevance, such as billiard-ball computers or hydraulic ones.[3]

While some are actually simulated, others are not[clarification needed]. No attempt is made[dubious ] to build a functioning computer through the mechanical collisions of billiard balls. The domino computer is another theoretically interesting mechanical computing scheme.[why?]

Electronic digital computersEdit

Most modern computers are electronic computers with the Von Neumann architecture based on digital electronics, with extensive integration made possible following the invention of the transistor and the scaling of Moore's law.

Unconventional computing is, according to a[which?] conference description,[4] "an interdisciplinary research area with the main goal to enrich or go beyond the standard models, such as the Von Neumann computer architecture and the Turing machine, which have dominated computer science for more than half a century". These methods model their computational operations based on non-standard paradigms, and are currently mostly in the research and development stage.

This computing behavior can be "simulated"[clarification needed] using the classical silicon-based micro-transistors or solid state computing technologies, but aim to achieve a new kind of computing.

Generic approachesEdit

These are unintuitive and pedagogical examples that a computer can be made out of almost anything.

Physical objectsEdit

Reservoir ComputingEdit

Reservoir computing is a computational framework in the context of machine learning. The main advantage of this unconventional computation is simple and fast leaning algorithm. Hardware implementation is also possible known as 'physical reservoir computer'.[5][6]

Tangible computingEdit

Human computingEdit

Physics approachesEdit

Optical computingEdit

Optical computing uses light to compute.




Quantum computingEdit

Chemistry approachesEdit

Molecular computingEdit

Biochemistry approachesEdit

Peptide computingEdit

DNA computingEdit

Membrane computingEdit

Biological approachesEdit


Some biological approaches are heavily inspired by the behavior of neurons.

Cellular automata and amorphous computingEdit

Mathematical approachesEdit

Analog computingEdit

Ternary computingEdit

Ternary computing is a type of computing that uses ternary logic (instead of binary logic).

Reversible computingEdit

Chaos computingEdit

Stochastic computingEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Unconventional Models of Computation 1998".
  2. ^ C.S. Calude. "Unconventional Computing: A Brief Subjective History, CDMTCS Report 480, 2015".
  3. ^ Penrose, Roger: The Emperor's New Mind. Oxford University Press, 1990. See also corresponding article on it.
  4. ^ "Unconventional computation Conference 2007".
  5. ^ "Reservoir computing", Wikipedia, 2019-09-12, retrieved 2019-10-13
  6. ^ Merino, Antoni; Fornós, Joan; Mulet, Antoni; Ginés, Joaquín (2019). "Morphological and mineralogical evidence for ancient bat presence in Cova des Pas de Vallgornera (Llucmajor, Mallorca, Western Mediterranean)". International Journal of Speleology. 48 (2): 115–131. doi:10.5038/1827-806x.48.2.2247. ISSN 0392-6672.