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A REAL Turing Machine

Friday, March 23, 2012 - 05:41 PM

In our most recent short The Turing Problem, we spend a fair amount of time talking about Alan Turing's “universal machine.” It was wholly imaginary: a contraption comprised of an infinitely long strip of tape, a little nubbin that reads and writes numbers on the tape, and a set of instructions. (Hypothetically: “if 1 is present move to the left and write another 1.” Something like that.) Those three ingredients were the nascent seeds of the modern computer. Real computers. With real working parts. A thought made metal.

Well, after our centennial celebration of Turing ran, an observant listener named “Steve” (thank you Steve) sent us to the website of a REAL Turing Machine – not computer born out of Turing's initial idea, but an actual physical manifestation of the whole tape-stylus-instructions formula. A total madman named Mike Davey actually built one of these things. Here's a video of it in action (and thank you to Mike Davey for such an fitting tribute to Turing’s work):


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Comments [16]

MRO RR from Cary

Great post, I liked it very much.

Jul. 01 2016 04:36 PM
a06b-6087-h126 from USA

I want to know details and features of Turing machine. I want it for my research project.a06b-6087-h126

Sep. 10 2012 01:12 AM

That was nice! easy and simple turning machine, i need to build it. thanks for video sean cole. nice and good site

Jul. 02 2012 06:42 AM

The BBC just posted this article on Turing, suggesting that his death was not self-inflicted.

Jun. 25 2012 11:41 AM

In this post you have given different type of video which is very useful for everyone. I like this post.a06b-6079-h206

Jun. 25 2012 09:50 AM
Michael Hagesfeld just needs to make one of these :)

Jun. 20 2012 04:03 PM
Max Nelson

I drew this in class

Apr. 21 2012 08:15 PM
Atom Smith

As Wolf mentioned, this is not a REAL Turing machine. (It lacks an infinite memory, which is crucial).

But I think it gets the point across, as RadioLab always does so sucessfully.

Apr. 11 2012 11:07 PM
david from D.C.

Interesting story. I would argue that Turing was not the first voice to declare that mankind are machines. G.I. Gurdjieff made the declaration 25 years prior that mankind were entirely mechanical. Though a bleak idea, Gurdjieff also said that there is a way to work against one's mechanicality.

Apr. 10 2012 10:17 AM

I really enjoyed this episode, one of the first episodes that I've ever listened to. As a computer scientist lucky enough to work as a practitioner, I often wonder why more people don't know about Alan Turing!

Apr. 02 2012 06:09 PM
Scott Gregg from Portland

I would not except such a pardon if it were offered. Its like getting a pardon from Germany for being Jewish, after the Nazi regime fell. If anything the British Government should be asking Turning to pardon them.

Apr. 01 2012 02:06 PM

@TimXCampell: He broke the law which was law at the time. Even though it was a bad law, that is not a reason to be pardoned. Turing was a great man and that was an awful law, but that doesn't mean he should be pardoned. It was part of his life's story.

Apr. 01 2012 05:35 AM

I was stunned to hear that the request for Turing's pardon was turned down. What a shallow, doctrinaire dismissal! "He knew it was illegal," in no way sets matters right.

One day, one day ... Turing will get that pardon. Well, probably. If the Pope could admit they were wrong about Galileo, the British government can admit they were wrong about Turing.

Mar. 31 2012 03:07 PM
Scott from Puerto Rico

I love the subtle BSG reference in this!

Mar. 30 2012 08:32 AM
Jack from NYC

Got an instant message from a chat bot at work, and conducted a stream of consciousness turing test:
BOT : hey there
ME: hey
BOT: hey wanna chat with a newly single and ready to mingle girl??
ME: umm
BOT: i broke up wiht my b.f.... ive been meeting new ppl and i wonder why i didnt do this ages ago lol
so what's up with u?
ME: cactus eggplant spongecake
BOT: oh cool are u signed up with n-e dating sites? u seem pretty cool i was gonna show u my profile i have some pics on there wanna see?
ME: ampersand richard
BOT: k i just uploaded some new ones to my Just HookUp profile.... u can be honest and tell me what u really think lol
u might have to have an acct to see them but u should make a profile anyway so i can send you a friend request and it only takes a second
ME: fractal neutron box wrangler
BOT: when u get ure username let me konw so i can send u a request and maybe we can get to know each other a little better

Mar. 27 2012 04:48 PM

There are a lot of people that built "Turing machines" some out of lego some out of pure software but since none of them af infinit tape they arent real turing machines,deal with it

Mar. 27 2012 04:45 AM

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