This video is a short documentary about the LEGO Turing Machine built by Jeroen van den Bos and Davy Landman at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica in Amsterdam. They built the device for CWI's exposition "Turings Erfenis" in honor of Alan Turings one hundredth birthday this year and to demonstrate how simple a "universal computing device" can be.
LEGO Turing Machine from ecalpemos on Vimeo.
Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician who helped define the theoretical model of the computer as we know it today. He also made many other significant contributions to cryptology, artificial intelligence and computer sceince. He was a visionary, one of the few people of his time who recognized the role the computer would play for humanity.
The Turing Machine was defined in 1936 as an abstract model for a simple device that manipulates symbols on a strip of tape according to a table of rules. Turing Machines are not intended to be practical, but can be used to simulate the logic of any computer algorithm and to define the limits of what can be computed by real computers. You can learn more about the abstraction and why it is important by taking CMSC 451, Automata Theory and Formal Languages.
There have been many physical models built in the past, but this one is interesting because it was built with a single Lego Mindstorms NXT set. One unfortunate limitation of this Turing Machine is that it has a finite 'tape'. See the Lego Turing Machine site for more information.
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