The information train

Diomidis Spinellis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review


The increased application of software-controlled digital electronics hinders the understanding of how things work. The information train is a scientific experiment exhibit that physically demonstrates how computers communicate. It comprises a network in which a model Lego train acts as a physical carrier transferring a picture's pixels from one computer to the other. The sending end computer scans a simple picture, and directs a model train to send that pixel to the receiving end computer. This is done by sensing the approaching train and switching a rail junction depending on whether a pixel is on or off. The train carries on its top a piece that rotates depending on the train's route, thus carrying the data between the two computers. At the receiving end, two sensors detect the shape's orientation allowing the receiving-end computer to reassemble the picture bit-by-bit, pixel-by-pixel. The receiving-end computer is a One Laptop per Child (OLPC) XO-1 machine, programmed using Etoys. This provides further opportunities for motivated adventurous children to interact with the experiment's implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDigital Da Vinci
Subtitle of host publicationComputers in the Arts and Sciences
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781493905362
ISBN (Print)1493909649, 9781493905355
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


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