This computer, built from Tinker Toys, always wins at tic-tac-toe. Danny Hillis and Brian Silverman began building it as MIT sophomores; the full story is described in the October 1989 issue of Scientific American in an article by A. K. Dewdney. It was displayed at the Computer Museum in Boston and is currently at the Boston Museum of Science. A community member writes that it "is a powerful illustration that technology is not only about Electronics." Photo by gribley used under Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike license.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Subscribe to comments with RSS
  • a picture of the barracks and study halls of blding 22 should show what the entering classes of 1946 and 1950 had to live with send beds to a room and 6by 6 studt cubicles in a barracks of 50 or more students joe dannunzio

    joe d'annunzio

    17 Mar 09 at 4:33 pm

  • how does it compute? i don’t see any gears so it can’t be mechanical. It’s definitely not electrical. What is it???


    11 Sep 09 at 6:17 pm

  • From the Scientific American Article:

    “The Tinkertoy computer is not fully autornatic: a human operator must crank the read head up and down and must manage its input. After the computer’s opponent makes a move, the operator walks to the front of the machine to adjust the core piece inside the read head, registering the contestant’s move. The operator then pulls on a string to cock the core piece for its impending whirl of recognition. When it discovers a memory that matches the current state of the game, the core piece spins, and the computer indicates its move.”

    The link to the article was broken, I fixed it. You can find the article here:

    Allan Doyle

    11 Sep 09 at 6:49 pm

  • I built 5 versions of the tinkertoy computer back in 1999. It was at an
    exhibit in Lake Charles LA with no advertisement. Ten people wandered
    in to see it over the month that it was up. What is left of it lines the walls
    of my bedroom. The diagram in Dewney’s book actually works, but i reprogramed
    it in my design to make the code more organized. My code first looks for a win,
    then a block, stategy to keep the computer from loosing, then “any move” to fill
    in what is left. I was able to simplyfy the code down to 45 lines. It does play
    and unbeatable game (no matter who starts first).

    Giron Madden

    26 Sep 09 at 11:37 am