This coming Saturday will be the 100th birthday of Alan Turing, the English mathematician famous for helping to break the German Enigma encryption during World War II. Though the man died in 1954, his legacy as one of the founders of computer science lives on. Vint Cerf, Google’s chief internet evangelist, wrote a thorough retrospective on Turing’s life and legacy for the BBC this week. An exhibit on Turing is opening in London this week.
In 1936, Turing described his idea for a machine that would observe symbols on a strip of tape and, according to a set of rules, would print other symbols somewhere on the strip. The description is, in fact, a simple computer capable of executing any computer algorithm. Though our computers have become unbelievably better than Turing’s machine, there are still those who hold a bit of nostalgia for the simpler demonstration of computing logic.
A team of researchers at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) has created a representation of a Turing machine built entirely from LEGOs. CWI is a national research center for math and computer science in the Netherlands. Take a look below at the video CWI has provided, demonstrating how the machine was built to use flippable LEGO joints as the Turing machine “tape.”
(Photo courtesy legoturingmachine.com)