The LEGO Turing Machine Gives a Quick Primer on How Your Computer Works

This past Sat­ur­day, we cel­e­brat­ed the cen­ten­ni­al of Alan Turing’s birth by pre­sent­ing two films that explore the life and achieve­ments of the great mathematician/father of com­put­er sci­ence: Dan­ger­ous Knowl­edge and Break­ing the Code. Today, before the anniver­sary fades into the back­ground, let us send one more film your way — this one a “short doc­u­men­tary” that brings Tur­ing’s famous com­put­ing machine to life. The device, as Tur­ing imag­ined it in 1936, was meant to sim­u­late the log­ic of com­put­er algo­rithms, reveal­ing the extent and lim­its of what can be com­put­ed. Tur­ing nev­er built the machine. He only offered a con­cep­tu­al blue­print. But two researchers at the Cen­trum Wiskunde & Infor­mat­i­ca in Ams­ter­dam have kind­ly recre­at­ed the Tur­ing Machine with LEGO, and then pro­duced a short film demon­strat­ing how the machine car­ries out the most basic func­tions of your com­put­er. Watch it go.

You can find more infor­ma­tion on the build­ing and inner-work­ings of the LEGO Tur­ing Machine here.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Com­put­er Sci­ence Cours­es

Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty to Cre­ate a Lego Pro­fes­sor­ship

Two Scenes from Stan­ley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, Recre­at­ed in Lego

New “Women of NASA” Lego Immor­tal­izes the STEM Con­tri­bu­tions of Sal­ly Ride,  Mar­garet Hamil­ton, Mae Jemi­son & Nan­cy Grace Roman

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.