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Can a contraption made of Tinkertoys win at tic-tac-toe? Can a computer create music? Design golf courses on the screen? Simulate the human brain? Can mathematics really explain anything and everything? For further elaboration on these and other provocative questions, read this latest collection of A.K. Dewdney's columns, drawn from the pages of "Scientific American" and " Can a contraption made of Tinkertoys win at tic-tac-toe? Can a computer create music? Design golf courses on the screen? Simulate the human brain? Can mathematics really explain anything and everything? For further elaboration on these and other provocative questions, read this latest collection of A.K. Dewdney's columns, drawn from the pages of "Scientific American" and "Algorithm." For novice hackers and longtime afficionados alike, it is a stimulating, fun-filled journey to the frontiers of computer science.


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Can a contraption made of Tinkertoys win at tic-tac-toe? Can a computer create music? Design golf courses on the screen? Simulate the human brain? Can mathematics really explain anything and everything? For further elaboration on these and other provocative questions, read this latest collection of A.K. Dewdney's columns, drawn from the pages of "Scientific American" and " Can a contraption made of Tinkertoys win at tic-tac-toe? Can a computer create music? Design golf courses on the screen? Simulate the human brain? Can mathematics really explain anything and everything? For further elaboration on these and other provocative questions, read this latest collection of A.K. Dewdney's columns, drawn from the pages of "Scientific American" and "Algorithm." For novice hackers and longtime afficionados alike, it is a stimulating, fun-filled journey to the frontiers of computer science.

35 review for The Tinkertoy Computer and Other Machinations

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dan'l Danehy-oakes

    In 1984, after Douglas Hofstadter left the position, _Scientific American_ recruited Professor Alexander K. Dewdney - a professor of computer science at the University of Western Ontario - to run their column of Computer, then Mathematical, Recreations. He continued in this position until 1991. This book is a collection of (mostly) columns from _SciAm_ with a couple from _Algorithm_ thrown in for good measure. A lot of the pleasure of reading these columns at this late date is recognizing how far In 1984, after Douglas Hofstadter left the position, _Scientific American_ recruited Professor Alexander K. Dewdney - a professor of computer science at the University of Western Ontario - to run their column of Computer, then Mathematical, Recreations. He continued in this position until 1991. This book is a collection of (mostly) columns from _SciAm_ with a couple from _Algorithm_ thrown in for good measure. A lot of the pleasure of reading these columns at this late date is recognizing how far computers have come from ca. 1990. A couple of articles are on making music with computers, and are based on the monophonic, monotonic tone generators provided with PCs at the time. Others are on graphics, equally limited. Many of the articles contain pseudocode snippets from which eager students may write (the equivalent, more or less, of) the program described. The first section - "Matter Computes" - is about computing machines other than PCs though. The title article, for example, is about how some MIT folks built a device from TinkerToys which - while not exactly programmable - did play a winning (or drawing) game of Tic-Tac-Toe. The machine was taller than a human being, though smaller than the first computer to successfully play Tic-Tac-Toe. Another article in this section, written for an April issue of _SciAm_, tells of a wondrous computing machine made from ropes and pulleys by an ancient island people. "Matter Misbehaves" contains articles about things like chaotic behavior and how to model it on a computer (of the time). The standout here would be "A Portrat of Chaos," an article about making reasonbly serious art by graphing certain kinds of chaotic/fractal behavior. Secion three, "Mathematics Matters," and four, "Computers Create," continue in the same vein, with different emphases. But the truth is that almost any article in this book, except perhaps the first three, could just as reasonably be placed in a different section of the book. The writing is nowhere near as sprightly as that of Martin Gardner, nor as witty as Hofstadter's; indeed, I found it rather thudding in places. This is a pity, because some of the topics are quite fascinating on their own. I really can't recommend it. (Also: Two April Fool columns in one book is overdoing it...)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    I'd heard about the Tinkertoy Computer some years ago. How in the heck did they make a tic-tac-toe-playing machine out of tinkertoys. Nutshell answer: they put wheels on shafts at various locations, forming a version of ROM. When various choices are made, various positions are checked and, when a position has a wheel in it, it triggers THAT as the next choice the machine should make. It worked. Well. Although, when they disassembled it, moved it and reassembled it, they couldn't get it working aga I'd heard about the Tinkertoy Computer some years ago. How in the heck did they make a tic-tac-toe-playing machine out of tinkertoys. Nutshell answer: they put wheels on shafts at various locations, forming a version of ROM. When various choices are made, various positions are checked and, when a position has a wheel in it, it triggers THAT as the next choice the machine should make. It worked. Well. Although, when they disassembled it, moved it and reassembled it, they couldn't get it working again. Meaning that the person who re-assembled it didn't understand how it worked, well enough, to be able to fix it. There are lots of mathematical puzzles in here. Those are enjoyable. But don't expect something explaining how the Tinkertoy Computer worked. Because, apparently, only the original inventor (Danny Hillis?) truly understood how it worked well enough to make it work. In that regard, I found this book to be rather disappointing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ushan

    A collection of columns on computer science from the Scientific American; I must say that Martin Gardner and Douglas Hofstadter wrote on more interesting topics.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brad

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jay

  6. 5 out of 5

    Serdar

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rob Silverman

  8. 5 out of 5

    John Moss

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mitch Allen

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  11. 4 out of 5

    John

  12. 5 out of 5

    psikonauta

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

  14. 4 out of 5

    Blackjackketch

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brad Polant

  16. 5 out of 5

    Peter Heinrich

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steve Kosloske

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sally

  19. 4 out of 5

    Wade

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brent Werness

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rajasekaran

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Bindon

  23. 4 out of 5

    csejnuprogrammer

  24. 4 out of 5

    Wikimedia Italia

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christoph

  26. 5 out of 5

    Corey

  27. 4 out of 5

    Charles Straney

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark Gunnels

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steve M Potter

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marc Fleury

  31. 5 out of 5

    John Gair

  32. 4 out of 5

    Niki Green

  33. 4 out of 5

    Jack

  34. 5 out of 5

    Julian Patton

  35. 5 out of 5

    Brian P

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