Their best bet is (if they are still alive) contact the old time hardware engineers predating chips. I worked on several systems in the Air Force designed and built in the early 60s and just before the first microchips were created.
One such machine was used to calculated the range of geosynchronous satellites using TTL (can transistors only) occupying an entire equipment rack. In a nutshell it was a hardwired computer designed to do one thing and one thing only.
I think if they could reduce their program to boolean equations it might be possible to get a ballpark idea the needed gates.