How the mechanics of a urinal flush inspired an early computer

John Conway poses in front of WINNIE, the product of her computational overflows in evidence on the floor.

A couple of decades after Alan Turing ushered in the computer age, another British mathematician named John Horton Conway developed the WINNIE, a “Water Initiated Numerical Number Integrating Engine.”

WINNIE stood 6 feet high and was assembled with plastics cups and siphons based on Conway’s observation of urinal-flushing mechanics circa 1957.

You can read more on WINNIE’s mechanics and how its computational calculations tended to overflow onto the floor here.

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