We have Alan Turing to thank for all the computers we see around us. He is the father of modern computer science: he created the idea of a programmable machine long before computers were even built.

You can find computers in virtually everything now!  Computers (obviously), televisions, telephones, washing machines, cameras.  In the future, fridges may be wired up to send signals about what shopping you need to buy.  Lighting and heating systems can be controlled remotely to save power.

Download a pdf of the instructions here.

Curriculum Links

Making a computer
  • understand how numbers can be represented in binary, and be able to carry out simple operations on binary numbers

Scottish Curriculum Links:



MNU 4-03a

Number, money and measure - Number and number processes


MTH 3-12a

Number, money and measure - Mathematics - its impact on the world, past, present and future

I have worked with others to research a famous mathematician and the work they are known for, or investigated a mathematical topic, and have prepared and delivered a short presentation.


MTH 4-12a

Number, money and measure - Mathematics - its impact on the world, past, present and future

I have discussed the importance of mathematics the real world, investigated the mathematical skills required for different career paths and delivered, with others, a presentation on how mathematics can be applied in the workplace.


MTH 3-13a

Number, money and measure - Patterns and relationships

Having explored number sequences, I can establish the set of numbers generated by a given rule and determine a rule for a given sequence, expressing it using appropriate notation


MTH 4-13a

Number, money and measure - Patterns and relationships

Having explored how real-life situations can be modelled by number patterns, I can establish a number sequence to represent a physical or pictorial pattern and determine a general formula to describe the sequence, then use it to make evaluations and solve related problems.

Making a computer

Alan Turing's contribution to the war was only a start.  Before he had gone to Bletchley Park he had started working on what became called the 'Turing Machine'.

The Turing Machine was not a computer.  In fact, it didn't really exist at all!  It was an imaginary machine that could take in simple commands and perform simple tasks.  From that description it sounds pretty useless, but the idea of the Turing Machine marked the beginning of computer programming: the idea of breaking down a set of tasks so that a computer is able to do them.


ComputerToday, computers are everywhere...

Have a look around your home and make a list of all the places you can find a computer or something which could perhaps be controlled by a computer in the future.  What would be the benefit of having appliances  around your home linked to your computer?

Computers are different from machines because they can perform different tasks depending on which program they are following.  A program is a series of commands or tasks - and these tasks can depend on different inputs...

For a washing machine IF the 'large load' button is pressed THEN wash for longer OR IF the 'light load' button is pressed THEN use less water.

For one of the computers you found in your home can you think of some of the different ways it operates?  What kind of commands would it follow and what kind of inputs does it accept?

Computers look enormously complex but in fact once you get past all the difficult programming the computer is comparatively simple.  It mainly works in binary code, just 0s or 1s.

Instead of using decimals (10 units, 10 tens, 10 hundreds etc), in binary you only count 0 or 1.

Key fact: Computers operate with a simple binary code of 0s and 1s, but can perform highly complex tasks due to sophisticated programming of inputs, tasks and outputs.


binaryCan you see the pattern of binary?

We are used to the decimal system... 136 is 1(hundred) + 3(tens) + 6 (units).









In binary the first column (the one on the right just like in the decimal system) counts the units, the second column counts the number of twos, the third column counts the number of 4s, the fourth the number of 8s, and so on.











So the binary number '1001' is 1(eight) + 0(fours) + 0(two) + 1(unit)
We can convert binary to decimal by adding these all up and get 8 + 1 = 9, so the number 1001 in binary is equal to the number 9 in decimal.

Download a pdf of the instructions here.

Can you write out the rest of the numbers up to 26 using binary code?  Now use binary to encode a message, using a simple substitution, i.e. a=1, b=2, c=3, and so on to z=26.  So, using the binary version of the code...

INVIGORATE  = 01001 01110 10101 01001 01111 10010 00001 10011 00101

The biggest number has 5 (101!) digits, so the rest are given  an extra 0 at the beginning to make them all look similar - the zeros don't mean anything - just like saying 0136 = 136 in decimal, but it makes them all the same length which allows us to drop the spaces!  Since you now have all the numbers with 5 digits, you can run them all together...

INVIGORATE  = 010010111010101010010111110010000011001100101