Mechanical Sand-RAM

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Schöne Arbeit von Ralf Baecker, ein mechanischer RAM, der Binärdaten mit Sandkörnern schreibt und damit ein bisschen Voodoo ausrechnet: Random Access Memory – Materialising mathematical process (algorithm).

Random Access Memory reflects on the interaction of idea and matter and their encounter in contemporary information technology. The use of sand as a medium refers to an old divination technique, called geomancy, originated from the arabic ‛ilm al-raml which translates as “science of the sand” and defines a set of rules, to recursively manipulate figures of geological material (eg. stones or sand) to be interpreted by the geomancer.

Sand grains can be read, placed or removed on a rotating disc by a three axis pick and place mechanism combined with a microscope camera to track the position of a single sand grain. This memory mechanism is prone to errors thru misreadings, bouncing grains and other imponderabilities. The algorithm, executed on the sand grains, is a so called Turmite, a two dimensional operating Turing Machine. It’s only goal it is to write as many 1’s (stones) as possible in the memory and to avoid a termination, following a strict rule. This process emerges complex and repetitive pattern on the disc. Finally, R A M investigates the contrast of a “pure” mathematical process (algorithm) and it’s “impure” material implementation into the world.