Machines designed to play Nim games. Teaching supports for mathematics, algorithmics and computer science (1940 – 1970)

Abstract :

This article deals with Nim games and machines built to play against a human being between the 1940s and the 1970s. They were designed not only to entertain, but also to explain concepts in mathematics, algorithmics and computer science to a general public. Moreover, they were exhibited during fairs or science shows and then manufactured for personal use. Nim games are take-away games without chance whose winning strategy relies on the binary system, easily characterized by bistable circuits called flip-flops. The first electromechanical Nim player machine, called The Nimatron, was invented in 1940 and exhibited during the New York World's Fair. Its success led to the construction of another electromechanical machine (1951). Then electric or purely mechanical inventions were patented for their cheaper production cost and their pedagogical aspects to understand elementary level instructions in computers as well as the rules of the binary system and notions of Boolean algebra. This article provides examples of such machines and shows their pedagogical interest.

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Communication dans un congrès
History and Pedagogy of Mathematics, Jul 2016, Montpellier, France
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Soumis le : mercredi 27 juillet 2016 - 09:04:26
Dernière modification le : jeudi 25 octobre 2018 - 01:18:02

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  • HAL Id : hal-01349260, version 1

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Lisa Rougetet. Machines designed to play Nim games. Teaching supports for mathematics, algorithmics and computer science (1940 – 1970). History and Pedagogy of Mathematics, Jul 2016, Montpellier, France. 〈hal-01349260〉

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