Wednesday Nerd Fun: Build Your Own Turing Machine

I sent this around to a few folks last week, but thought I would share it here as well. If you are not quite nerdy enough to know what a Turing Machine is (hint–you have already used one), check out the Wikipedia page on it.

The version of the machine shown below was built by Mike Davey, who offers this description of himself and the project:

I live in northeast Wisconsin and love to build things. I’ve always liked to make things, take things apart, and see how stuff works. I’ve made all sorts of things, from a CNC router to a Gingery metal lathe, from a greenhouse to furniture; it doesn’t really matter, I find it all enjoyable. I’m also fortunate that, while they may not always understand what I’m building, my family has always been supportive.

The Turing machine came about from a long interest in the history of computers. It’s amazing how groundbreaking computer concepts that were developed during the 40’s and 50’s are now often taken for granted. Something that today seems as basic as the flip-flop or a stack were hard-won ideas in their day. The Turing machine is that type of concept; although it seems almost trivial today, is it still conceptually so powerful.

While thinking about Turing machines I found that no one had ever actually built one, at least not one that looked like Turing’s original concept (if someone does know of one, please let me know). There have been a few other physical Turing machines like the Lego of Doom, but none were immediately recognizable as Turing machines. As I am always looking for a new challenge, I set out to build what you see here.

Here is Mike’s Turing Machine:

And in true WNF spirit, here’s the Lego of Doom project that Mike mentions, set to the theme of the A-Team: