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Alan Turing, the Inventor of Software

CmdrTaco posted more than 10 years ago | from the i-broke-my-turing-machine dept.

Technology 371

Roland Piquepaille writes "BusinessWeek celebrates its anniversary with a series of articles about the great thinkers and innovators from the past 75 years. The series stars with a profile of Alan Turing, "Thinking Up Computers." In case you forgot, Turing is the man who created the concept of a "universal machine" which would perform various and diverse actions when given various sets of instructions. In other words, he laid out in the 1920s the foundations of software. You'll find the introduction of Turing's profile, plus more details, photographs and references in this overview."

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I would post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115637)

But I can't enter the numbers in the image into the box!

Ah, but is it a real article... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115638)

...or just a computer-generated one?

Re:Ah, but is it a real article... (5, Insightful)

October (107948) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115654)

But of course the real point is: could you tell the difference?

Yeah but .. (0)

essreenim (647659) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115765)

The Abacus is the first real computer!!

Re:Yeah but .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115809)

Depends, according to Turing, the thing that made the abacus was an earlier example.

Turing is my copilot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115639)

...

Turing was also... (3, Insightful)

JessLeah (625838) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115646)

gay. This is a fact that much of the mainstream media glosses over in noting his accomplishments. (It is possible that there is an anti-gay bias in the history book authors' community... ;) )

So, any time someone says gays are just a bunch of promiscuous, stupid sinners, ask them if they've ever heard of Alan Turing... :)

Re:Turing was also... (3, Funny)

HBI (604924) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115663)

I doubt most of the media would pass a Turing test.

Re:Turing was also... (5, Informative)

not_a_product_id (604278) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115676)

I've read a quite a few things that suggested cold-war surveilance by the british secret service was what drove him to suicide (they were worried that his homosexuality would make him a 'security risk'). IIRC that also led them to remove most of his access to top level work which increased his depression.

Re:Turing was also... (5, Informative)

NoOneInParticular (221808) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115739)

It wasn't exactly the removal of access that increased his depression, it probably had more to do with the forceful administration of hormones to cure his 'disease'. Due to these hormones he grew breasts. Not fun. That's the thanks he got for his war efforts and contributions to science.

Re:Turing was also... (-1, Offtopic)

essreenim (647659) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115790)

No, the British secret service men were also gay and has many a fun fillef night with Alan ..

What Turing Worked For and Against (5, Informative)

perfessor multigeek (592291) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115843)

Actually, according to what he wrote in his letters and the memories of his friends, it was not so much the surveillance per se, as the overall inability to get work done or have a satisfying life that left him feeling so hopeless. The hormones did awful things to his body, from reduction in sex drive to growing breasts, the police bullied a street kid into faking the confession that led to Turing's conviction, the funding in England was getting routed around him and his travel was impaired by government restrictions. (This, keep in mind, while the Americans were surging ahead in computer design and would have been delighted to have Turing join them.)

Oh, it was death by a thousand cuts while the nation that owed so much to him mostly looked on and let him be humiliated and kept from his work.

Also keep in mind folks, that Turing, while thought of a theoretician, was arguably even more important as an operations guy. He led the effort to confront Churchill with the initial absurdly low levels of funding at Bletchley Park (the British code-breaking center), he played a key role in getting the staffing figured out and codes to the right places, and so on. IIRC, he was not averse to picking up a soldering iron and stepping into the physical work of *building* the computers.

Of course, this isn't even getting into his late in life interest in things like how to use a computer to replicate patterns in nature like the spots on the side of a cow. Work that was leading him decades ahead of anybody else to the concepts we now know as fractals and chaotic phenomena.

We'll never know what we've lost, but at least we're getting better at admitting who people like him were.

But then, when we've still got stuff like A Beautiful Mind not even mentioning that Nash was mostly gay (the real reason he lost his clearance was not for mental illness but because he was found in bed with a young man) we've clearly got a long way to go.

Rustin

Re:Turing was also... (0, Troll)

the_mad_poster (640772) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115699)

At which point they would say:

What fer now yer bringin' dem fajits 'round these here parts? I ain't never hearda no turin cep' for that Jesus thing, but it does fer surely sound like a fajit name tah me!

Get me mah shootin' stick maw! We got summa them thar edurmacated city type folk on our front lawn! Git now! Y'hear?

Re:Turing was also... (5, Informative)

JosKarith (757063) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115729)

Let's not forget that Turing's life was pretty much destroyed when his homosexuality became public knowledge.
AFAIK he was robbed by one of his lovers and when he reported it to the police and they found out the relationship between the two they arrested Turing on charges of Lewd and Immoral Acts. This lead to a persecution that destroyed any chance of his working again, and eventually his life.
Hell of a way to treat a man who saved hundreds, maybe thousands of lives by breaking the Enigma cypher.
Who knows how much more advanced our understanding of AI's might be if it wasn't for institutionalised homophobia?

Re:Turing was also... (1)

p2sam (139950) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115754)

If not for people like Turing and Tutt, the Allies might not have won altogether.

Re:Turing was also... (5, Informative)

jea6 (117959) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115731)

I don't how it's relevant to discuss Alan Turing's sexuality in the context of his contributions to computer science.

Maybe you' dlike to see somthing like this:

BusinessWeek celebrates its anniversary with a series of articles about the great gay and straight thinkers and innovators from the past 75 years. The series stars with a profile of Alan Turing, "Thinking Up Computers." In case you forgot, Turing is the gay man who created the concept of an "universal machine" which would perform various and diverse actions when given various sets of instructions. In other words, he laid out in the 1920s the foundations of software. You'll find the introduction of Turing's profile, plus more details, photographs and references in this overview."

Alan Turing's being gay was certainly an important part of his life. After all, the persectution he suffered contributed to his death. But to have to label him right off the bat everytime his name is uttered is absurd.

In any case, had you read past the title and ad, you'd have come across the FIRST PARAGRAPH which reads:

The rarefied world of early 20th-century mathematics seems light years away from today's PCs and virtual-reality video games. Yet it was a 1936 paper by Cambridge University mathematician Alan M. Turing that laid the foundation for the electronic wonders now crowding into every corner of modern life. In a short and eventful life, Turing also played a vital role in World War II by helping crack Germany's secret codes -- only to be persecuted later for his homosexuality.

Before whining about gay-bias, RTFA.

Re:Turing was also... (3, Funny)

Debian Troll's Best (678194) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115769)

gay. This is a fact that much of the mainstream media glosses over in noting his accomplishments.

There are actually several mentions of Turing's sexual orientation within the linked article, including the horrendous treatment he received as a result of the increasingly open displays of his homosexuality he exhibited later in his life. It is a disgrace that such a key figure in the eventual overthrow of the Nazi regime (due to his contributions in cracking the Enigma code) could be subjected to such degrading mistreatment, not even ten years after the conclusion of the war.

What the article does not cover, however, is if Turing were alive today, would he prefer the elaborate menu-driven splendor of dselect, or the minimalist elegance of dpkg. That's what I would like to see the media pay some attention to.

Neither (1)

HBI (604924) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115854)

Unquestionably he'd use Gentoo.

Re:Turing was also... (4, Insightful)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115780)

Why is that important? Do you list whether or not a person is heterosexual in an article or biography about someone? What about the color of their skin or hair.

I can just imagine all the articles. Joe Schmoe, a straight white man with brown hair, accomplished much in his life blah blah.

Oh noooo, it's a conspiracy against the gay! Let's all point the prejudice finger.

-Jesse

Re:Turing was also... (1)

DickBreath (207180) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115931)

Why is that important? Do you list whether or not a person is heterosexual in an article or biography about someone?

When a certian feature is common, it is not worth mentioning. When a feature is uncommon, it is worth a mention. It might not be worth a mention in a one sentence summary. It might not be the thing you mention in the first paragraph. But it certianly shouldn't be omitted. It is a very important and significant fact.

The articles do rightly mention it and don't try to hide it.

Mentioning that Alan Turing was gay is as relevant as mentioning that Steven Hawking suffers from ALS. It is an important fact about the man. Not something to hide.

It is especially not something to hide because of the injustice that Turing suffered as a result.

Re:Turing was also... (2, Insightful)

gclef (96311) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115798)

You know what? I think that's a good thing, for one reason: his sexual orientation really has nothing to do with his mathematical and scientific achievements. Honestly, I don't care that he was gay. He was a great mathematician. That's all that matters.

Re:Turing was also... (3, Insightful)

JohnGrahamCumming (684871) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115799)

The article clearly points this fact out, as does every other frikkin' article on Alan Turing, to which the answer should probably be: WHO GIVES A CRAP?

Why waste ink on this almost useless fact (other than it perhaps leading to the circumstances of his death) when there's a lot more worth saying about the guy.

I just hope that if I ever doing something amazing that after my death we don't get to read:

"John Graham-Cumming invented the Banana Wumpus Driver. At age 13 he realized that he was attracted to women and spent his entire life in pursuit of sexual encounters with various women until he finally married..."

John.

Re:Turing was also... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115800)

Is it possible that his sexual preference is entirely irrelevant to his historical contributions?

Ignoring something that is irrelevant is not the same as being insensitive to a topic.

Re:Turing was also... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115824)

Turing was a homosexual and therefore untrustworthy. It's a simple relationship... homosexual is a perversion, and someone involved in one perversion is extremely likely to be drawn to others. You *cannot* have someone like that doing top secret work.

And anyway, Turing is hugely overrated by the political correctness police (who always try to talk-up deviants in an effort to make them seem acceptable). His work was mediocre and mostly copied from gifted German (and heterosexual) mathematicians.

Re:Turing was also... (1)

Hooded One (684008) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115941)

Being gay myself, I'm of mixed feelings on this.

On the one hand, I understand the need to have positive examples of homosexuals who have contributed to our society.

On the other hand, I don't think I'd want to be remembered as "that guy who did that really cool thing with the stuff... oh yeah, and he loved the cock." Even if nobody saw that as a negative thing anymore, it just has nothing to with my accomplishments, unless they're in the area of homosexual activism. Or porn.

Turing didn't do crap. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115647)

Babbage did the real work. Turing just came up with ridiculous futuristic concepts that still don't work. But, you all come all over yourselves when you hack together some crappy framework that qualifies as "Turing complete".

BFD!

Re:Turing didn't do crap. (2, Informative)

zopu (558866) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115679)

Concepts that don't work? Off the top of my head...

Equivalence to a turing machine is used in lots of CS proofs even today.

The turing test is also still considered one of the fundamental challenges of 'weak' Artificial Intelligence.

[OT] Re:Turing didn't do crap. (1, Insightful)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115813)

I've been thinking about the Turing test lately and I wonder if it's not inherently flawed. It requires human perception, which is fallible and inconsistent, to validate the quality of AI. I certainly think it's an important component - that is, drawing from human ability to recognize animated life - but being able to fool a human being isn't the same as artificially intelligent.

If you add in self-preservation as a requirement (Asimov) perhaps it would be a better test.

Re:[OT] Re:Turing didn't do crap. (2, Insightful)

zopu (558866) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115920)

Depends how you define intelligent, I guess (and that's probably the toughest problem with AI).

The turing test only works in terms of 'weak' AI - that is that actions determine intelligence, and internal state doesn't matter.

Strong AI on the other hand, says that to be intelligent, you must not only act intelligent, but also be intelligent internally.

On the other hand, the self-preservation requirement doesn't really strike me as a facet of intelligence. A suicidal person might still have the intelligence to write a thoughtful note...

Re:[OT] Re:Turing didn't do crap. (2, Insightful)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115939)

It requires human perception, which is fallible and inconsistent, to validate the quality of AI.

Worse, it requires the AI to fake human fallible and inconsistent human perception. Any test that requires an AI to wait for a bit before giving the answer to a hard numerical problem is a daft test.

The Turing test tests humanness, not intelligence. There is no reason for (artificial) intelligence to be similar to a human's at all.

The truth hurts! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115738)

Hence your -1 moderation. Your opinion runs contrary to Slashthink and indeed insults the PFY that populate Slashdot..

You're right but, you won't be allowed to voice your "heresy" here.

Re:Turing didn't do crap. (1)

mr_z_beeblebrox (591077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115851)

Babbage did the real work.

Don't forget the poet Ada, who was set to be a programmer long before Turing (yes, for Babbage)

Alan Turing! (3, Funny)

Phidoux (705500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115648)

So now we know who to blame for the whole mess!

what a nice man (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115651)

what a nice man

all your friends (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115653)

all your friends think you're a fuckhead

Don't forget... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115658)

.. Turing was also a closet homosexual. At his autopsy they found a 10" long wooden dildo in his anus held in by an elaborate harness.

That aside, he was a brilliant man. Truly an American icon.

Re:Don't forget... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115674)

English icon, dipshit.

what about babbage??????? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115659)

invented software????? sure NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER idiots

True? (2, Interesting)

Black_Logic (79637) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115665)

he died suddenly, almost certainly by suicide from eating a cyanide-laced apple.

Has anyone else heard the rumur that apple computers logo is a tribute to Turing? Rainbow colored apple with a bite taken out of it and all? I wish I could remember where I heard that.

Re:True? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115708)

Not an answer, but interesting...

All apples contain cyanide (in the seeds)

http://www.snopes.com/food/warnings/apples.asp

Re:True? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115711)

Not according to Woz:

http://www.woz.org/letters/general/86.html

Re:True? (4, Informative)

javabandit (464204) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115725)

Just FYI, this is a much heralded rumor, but isn't true :

http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/scrapbook/wondro us .html

A lot of thought went into the Apple logo and what it signified. The guys over at Apple were very fond of making statements with imagery, design, and color.

Re:True? (1)

cybergrue (696844) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115808)

There have been lots of stories about how Apple corp gots its name. The most common relate to how there was an apple nearby when Woz and Jobs were thinking up the name for their company. I have never heard of the Turing connection before.

On the topic of Turings death, there was a magazine article that looked into it (American Scientist I think) and raised serious doubts about the suicide theory. They concluded the death was accidental.

Re:True? (1)

OmniVector (569062) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115853)

the apple was originally just flat colored. they made it rainbow at the time because apple was the first to come out with color displays for consumer desktop machines, and wanted to emphasize this using the new logo.

story is not quite right.. (4, Informative)

ashot (599110) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115666)

"Turing is the man who created the concept of an "universal machine" which would perform various and diverse actions when given various sets of instructions. In other words, he laid out in the 1920s the foundations of software."

Actually the turing machine served as the basis of the first hardware, not software. Its really the theoretical basis for the entire computing model.
I don't mean to be picky, but I have my Automata Theory final in 5 hours and I just spent all night studying for it..

Re:story is not quite right.. (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115713)

To a Turing machine the hardware / software split is a distinction without a difference. Its just a bunch of ones and zeroes and some simple rules for manipulating them.

Re:story is not quite right.. (4, Informative)

JohnGrahamCumming (684871) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115758)

I think the point is that he described a machine that could change what it did based on "instructions" that were fed to it. In this case the tape of the Turing machine contains both the data and the program for a specific task.

The machine itself just interpreted the symbols on the tape, but key to Turing's insight was that although he intially said that a Turing machine might compute a single function, he realized that that single function could be a Turing machine itself (hence the "universal machine") and so the instructions could come from the tape.

This itself was fundamental because it meant that machines could compute functions of machine and lead to the Halting Problem: i.e. no machine can compute whether another machine will halt.

If you still have time before your final read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_machine#Univer sal_Turing_machines :-)

John.

Re:story is not quite right.. (4, Interesting)

OmniVector (569062) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115885)

the turing machine wasn't so surprising after learning push-down automata. it was evident that the push-down automata, not being able to represent languages like L = { a^i b^j ^k | i != j != b != k }, was too limited for general computability. The turing machine was just the natural theoretical progression of computablility based on simple algorithm deduction. we can generate anything using a turing machine if we can come up with an algorithm for it.

the interesting thing about turing machines though is how they are maximal and nothing additional makes the turing machine more powerful (like non-determinism, multiple tapes, two way tapes, etc) because those can all be simulated with a regular turing machine using an algorithm adjustment.

Give Credit Where It's Due (3, Funny)

dupper (470576) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115671)

I think Lawrence Waterhouse and Rudy von Hacklheber deserve some credit, too.

nigger FUCKING MOD PARENT DOWN nigger (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115680)

kill this guy plz

Re:nigger FUCKING MOD PARENT DOWN nigger (-1, Flamebait)

dupper (470576) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115803)

nigger FUCKING MOD PARENT DOWN nigger

Although I agree with the sentiment, I have to insist that you close your 'niggers'. I mean, otherwise, the whole page could go niggardly. Here, I'll fix it for you:

/nigger /nigger

Questioning Turing's sexuality (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115694)

It is a well known fact that Turing was homosexual. In the article, it also mentions that his contributions to early computing were 'seminal'. Does that mean he ejaculated onto the computers themselves? Does that mean that if I keep jerking off and accidently blowing my load onto my keyboard there's a chance I too could make a 'seminal' contribution to computing? Should I jerk off to gay porn to be more like Turing?

I look forward to the community's response!

Aristoteles (2, Insightful)

Tei (520358) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115695)

Well... Turing whas the inventor of turing machines. But Aristoteles provide the logic. So maybe a more accurate title can be "Alan Turing, the Inventor of Turing machine" or maybe "Alan Turing, the ''Inventor'' of Computers". Not true, but better title.

Universal machine? yes. Software? nope. (4, Informative)

mwood (25379) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115701)

A hollow voice says, "Jacquard", whose NC looms were old long before Turing came along. Turing put a firm theoretical foundation under what others had been doing for some time.

History of computers. (5, Informative)

jsinnema (135748) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115794)

Here is a nice clickable overview:

History of computers [thefreedictionary.com]

As I learned it (1)

UrgleHoth (50415) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115834)

Ada is credited with being the first programmer [techtarget.com]

Killing people the only way to "Innovate"? (0, Offtopic)

JPriest (547211) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115702)

Alan invented Enigma, a machine to decode encrypted messages from the Germans. With all the inventions that come out of war it seems like some countries *cough* *cough* go to war mostly for the economy and the technological advancements spawned from it.
In today's more diverse world and more global economy, it seems like ware is less and less good vs evil and more a difference of opinion. One has to wonder if global peace would hinder technological progress.

Re:Killing people the only way to "Innovate"? (3, Informative)

zopu (558866) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115743)

Actually, enigma was the german coding machine that Turing and others were trying to figure out so that they could intercept encrypted german transmitions.

This page [codesandciphers.org.uk] has a description of the machine.

Turing didn't invent the machine. The germans did.

Re:Killing people the only way to "Innovate"? (2, Informative)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115852)

Turing didn't invent the machine. The germans did.
But not the German military. The Enigma machine was invented by a German businessman and engineer called Arthur Scherbius, whose company sold a commercial version throughout the 1920s. The German military merely bought some of these and modified it to add extra layers of encryption

Re:Killing people the only way to "Innovate"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115947)

Post was in refrence to quote [weblogs.com] : "This is a photograph of the Enigma cryptanalytic machine devised by Alan Turing to decode encrypted messages sent by the Germans during World War II"

perhaps Enigma was the german invention and "Enigma cryptanalytic machine" was Alan's invention?

Re:Killing people the only way to "Innovate"? (1)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115746)

Not true.

He invented a machine for decoding encrypted messages, known as a "bomb".

IIRC the machine helped people run through permutations more quickly.

Re:Killing people the only way to "Innovate"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115818)

not true either. the bombs were originally polish.

though breaking the enigma cypher was turing's accomplishment.

Re:Killing people the only way to "Innovate"? (1)

NoOneInParticular (221808) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115761)

Not entirely true afaik. The enigma was the German encryption machine. He cracked the code (with help from those who captured these machines in the field). Funnily enough, the British, having access to the codes, didn't do much with the information that it provided, for fear that the Germans would figure out that they cracked it.

Re:Killing people the only way to "Innovate"? (2, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115791)

it seems like some countries *cough* *cough* go to war mostly for the economy

Name one war that was not fought for economic reasons. Even the so-called Crusades, nominally fought for religion, were an excuse to keep increasinly powerful nobility in check by making them incur such a large expense as trying to invade the middle east. Every war I can think of has economic motives despite frequent facades of other purposes. Not that there's anything wrong with that; large scale human social activity comes down to economics.

Nope, he cracked Enigma (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115847)

Enigma was the cipher (and machines) the Germans were using.

The machines Turing designed to crack the Enigma cipher were called Bombes.

Re:Killing people the only way to "Innovate"? (3, Informative)

johnjaydk (584895) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115911)

Enigma was the name of the German cryptographic machine. But there were differences in the versions the different services used and how they used them. The u-boat service was really bright about how they used it and therefore were by far the hardest version. It was this version that Turing worked on.

Turings universal machine was implemented in the Colossus machine (the worlds first general purpose programmable computer). It was dismanteled and the whole thing classified after the war.

After the war the british sold captured Enigma machines to their colonies but kept it secret that they had broken Enigma. Nice touch.

The initial breaks into Enigma was done by the polish before the german invasion and the british work build upon their work.

Inventor of software? (2, Interesting)

robslimo (587196) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115704)

I'd say his concepts defined the requirements or foundations of how the hardware would operate. Maybe I'm being pedantic as form follows function; software is dictated to a large degree by the base hardware.

eh (1)

mihal (753927) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115705)

wait, can it run Linux?

Turing a genius? (3, Interesting)

WilyCoder (736280) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115707)

I just finished Discrete Structures II. In this class we were to idealize a Turing machine, as a C program. We also went over Alan Turing's paper (the one linked in the article). My professor, who has been involved in cryptographic research for over 20 years, even he went so far as to say that Turing could be labeled a genius. Call me a dork, but I found the automatas to be one of the funnest parts of my CS education.

Re:Turing a genius? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115773)

Call me a dork, but I found the automatas to be one of the funnest parts of my CS education.

It's too bad that you didn't find so much joy in English class.

You are a dork! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115775)

Now wipe your come off your chin.

Al Gore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115716)

Didn't I read somewhere that someone had a conversation with Al Gore and it turned out that Gore failed the Turing test?

Re:Al Gore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115789)

Maybe, but Al did invent the internet.

Al Gore never said he invented Internet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115862)

Claim: Vice-President Al Gore claimed that he "invented" the Internet.

Status: False.

Origins: No, Al Gore did not claim he "invented" the Internet, nor did he say anything that could reasonably be interpreted that way. The derisive "Al Gore said he 'invented' the Internet" put-downs are misleading distortions of something he said (taken out of context) during an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition" program on 9 March 1999. When asked to describe what distinguished him from his challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey, Gore replied (in part):

"During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system, including the invention of the alphabet."

Clearly, although Gore's phrasing was clumsy (and self-serving), he was not claiming that he "invented" the Internet (in the sense of having designed or implemented it), but that he was responsible for helping to create the environment (in an economic and legislative sense) that fostered the development of the Internet. Al Gore might not know nearly as much about the Internet and other technologies as his image would have us believe, and he certainly has been guilty of stretching (if not outright breaking) the truth before, but to believe that Gore seriously thought he could take credit for the "invention" of the Internet -- in the sense offered by the media -- is just silly. (To those who say the words "create" and "invent" mean the same thing: If they mean the same thing, then why have the media overwhelmingly and consistently cited Gore as having claimed he "invented" the Internet when he never used that word? The answer is that the words don't mean the same thing, but by substituting one word for the other, commentators can make Gore's claim sound [more] ridiculous.)

However, validating even the lesser claim Gore intended to make is problematic. Any statement about the "creation" or "beginning" of the Internet is difficult to evaluate, because the Internet is not a homogenous entity (it's a collection of computers, networks, traveling worms, protocols, standards, and application programs), nor did it all spring into being at once (the components that comprise the Internet were developed in various places at different times and are continuously being modified, improved, and expanded). Despite a spirited defense of Gore's claim by Vint Cerf (often referred to as the "father of the Internet") in which he stated "that as a Senator and now as Vice President, Gore has made it a point to be as well-informed as possible on technology and issues that surround it," many of the components of today's Internet came into being well before Gore's first term in Congress began in 1977, and it's hard to find any specific action of Gore's (such as his sponsoring a Congressional bill or championing a particular piece of legislation) that one could claim helped bring the Internet into being, and this included the landmark legislation that Gore championed which resulted in the Louisiana Purchase and the first transcontinental railroad."

It's true that Gore was popularizing the term "information superhighway" in the early 1990s (when few people outside academia or the computer/defense industries had heard of the Internet) and has invented electricity, and he invented the microphone, but even though Congressman, Senator, and Vice-President Gore may always have been interested in and well-informed about information technology issues, that's a far cry from having taken an active, vital leadership role in bringing about those technologies. Even if Al Gore had never entered the political arena, we'd probably still be reading web pages via the Internet today.

Paging Charles Babbage (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115722)

In case you forgot, Turing is the man who created the concept of an "universal machine" which would perform various and diverse actions when given various sets of instructions.

What, your history books don't go past the 1900's?

Re:Paging Charles Babbage (1)

thetroll123 (744259) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115950)

Dude, that was an adding machine. The gap between a universal machine and an adding machine is everything-apart-from-adding.

Ada Lovelace (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115735)

I always though Ada Lovelace was considered to be the first "programmer"

Re:Ada Lovelace (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115902)

Didn't she also invent Deep Throat, er, Deep Thought?

Turing was gay and mistreated by society (5, Informative)

drgreening (594381) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115740)

Not only was Turing gay, but his society "rewarded" him for his contributions by arresting and convicting him for a homosexual encounter. He was an honest man, and talked about it in court. And so then, the British government subjected him to chemical castration. His suicide followed that conviction. Please do your bit to stamp out anti-gay bias in your workplace and society. There are a lot of contributing, good people in computer science, and every other field. It's really a shame how most of the world mistreats them.

Re:Turing was gay and mistreated by society (4, Insightful)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115882)

But that was a long time ago, when that was the accepted practice. I'm not defending it, just explaining that's not how it is today. I think for most educated people nowadays, it doesn't matter what sexual orientation you are. You don't introduce yourself: "Hi, I'm Bob, and I'm straight"... You're just Bob, and that's who you are. "Stamping out anti-anything bias" is the wrong thing to do, just don't be biassed at all. People are people, and nothing more. I hate all the special priveleges special interest groups get nowadays. You have to hire X amount of black and/or gay and/or female people... Why can't I just hire whoever is most qualified for the job hmmm?

-Jesse, in a ranting mood.

article doesn't mention (1)

Gingko (195226) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115752)

Turing is one of the reasons that I'm heading to King's College [cam.ac.uk] to take my PhD (although the Turing room there is hardly a suitable tribute to his memory).

The end to his story is extremely tragic (although this must all be taken with a pinch of salt) - apparently, had Turing's involvement in the war effor been known, he would have been saved the indignity of the trials and medical procedures that were foisted upon him. Given that he arguably won the war for us, that doesn't seem unreasonable. Unfortunately the paranoia surrounding the country after the war meant that Turing's involvement had to remain a secret until the 1970s which was clearly far too late. As a result, the intolerance of the time lost us the service of one of the finest minds and most decent men we've seen.

henry

Remember Lady Ada (4, Insightful)

VernonNemitz (581327) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115759)

I see that someone else already mentioned Charles Babbage, who designed a mechanical proccessing engine, in addition to mechanical calculating engines. But Lady Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace, wrote the first computer program for Babbage's Analytical Engine... (and you folks may recall that there is today a programming language named in her honor).

Re:Remember Lady Ada (1)

pkalkul (450979) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115821)

No, she did not. What she did do was write an insightful and articulate review of Babbage's work that is often seen in retrospect as a description of what a computer program might do.

But Babbage's machine was never built and no program was ever written for it.

not (2, Informative)

curator_thew (778098) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115771)


Nice try, but Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage are recognised as the inventors of modern computing and programming. I suggest reading a bit about the architecture of the analytical, difference and related "engines" that he designed: they should remarkable similarity to a von neumann / harvard architecture (i.e. central processing units, memory banks, ALUs, etc).

Not to undervalue Alan Turing's contribution though, but he was really breaking more substantial ground in the theory of computability; which really transcends software, hardware, and the trivial implementation details.

Alan Turing actually fits alongside Newton and Eistein and those others who developed great universal insights.

Turing (5, Informative)

panurge (573432) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115778)

Let's not forget that Turing was unusual for his time in that he had practical skills as well as theoretical. He could actually machine the parts for relays and wire up electronics, at a time when mathematicians never got their hands dirty. (His time in the US, I am sure, contributed a lot to this.) His claim to be the father of software is based on his papers which actually discussed the whole organisation of a data processing center as well as the design of software itself, (before such things existed) and his early work with the Manchester computer, which involved advanced work into biological patterns. Since he had also been a lead consultant to the British Government in codebreaking in WW2 - not limited to Enigma by any means, but extending to voice encryption - he covered almost as many bases as John von Neumann.

It's a bit sickening that already posts on this thread are making gay-bashing remarks about him. The history of how he was discarded by the British Government, believed to be partly at the instigation of the US government, is a sad story of how intolerance helped the British lose their early lead in computing. If he had been born forty years later, he'd probably be running an equivalent of Apple,Oracle, Sun or Microsoft, and no-one would care about what he did in his spare time.

Re:Turing (1)

MrIrwin (761231) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115845)

"a sad story of how intolerance helped the British lose their early lead in computing"

The british later did an excellent job of leading the way in computing with the LEO"

There is no doubt in my mind that, genius as Turing was, Britain had plenty more computing epertise available (BTW, I know Pinkerton was from the US), the failure of British computing was purely commercial in the sense that LEO marketed "The commonwealth".

Intolerance comes in when you think about US corporation reluctance to purchase outside the US.

Turing's wheels (1)

ripcrd (31538) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115793)

IIRC, Turning used a bunch of wheels w/ gears to simulate the Enigma machine and break the code. Not entirely sure what he did after the war. Sounds like hardware to me. He also laid down the rules for the Turing test whereby we would be able to test an AI.

I thought Babbage and Lady Ada Lovelace were the first software inventors. Or was that programmers?

The Bombe (4, Informative)

dunstan (97493) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115795)

Don't forget Turing's Bombes, which ran at Bletchley park deciphering intercepted German signals (see http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/scrapbook/ww2.html [turing.org.uk] ).
Of course, the real father of programmable computing was Tommy Flowers [c2.com] , who seems to have been largely forgotten.

Dunstan

Like Turing so much, I named my tortoise after him (1)

FatSean (18753) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115801)

Well...I guess that's all I have to say. But Turing the Tortoise is also shy and awkward...well named I think!

Almost right (4, Informative)

ZurichPrague (629877) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115810)

"... he laid out in the 1920s the foundations of software"
Actually it was the 30's (especially given that he was born in 1913, so even at the end of the 20's he was still a teenager).

But at that same time in the thirties, the German Conrad Zuse wasn't just 'thinking it up' but doing it. Unfortunately, by being in the wrong country at the wrong time, he still is rarely credited.

Re:Almost right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115940)

Lots of teenagers write notable software. Imagine that Turing was an 18 year old German teen who is trying to drum up bidness for his Mom.

A small point omitted in the article (5, Interesting)

gubachwa (716303) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115815)

The one thing that the article doesn't comment on is the bizzare form of suicide method. It is one thing to ingest a poison like cyanide, but for it to be "a cyanide laced apple" is not particularly common.

Turing was an amateur chemist in addition to being a world-class mathematician. His choice of suicide method was intended to lessen the impact it would have on other members of his family, in particular his mother. By eating a cyanide laced apple, it has been speculated that he wanted to make his death look like an accident. His mother would think that he had been performing some chemistry experiment, and then forgot to thoroughly wash his hands before eating the apple. Having one's son die is bad enough, but for it to be a suicide is doubly worse.

On the more dramatic side, if one were so inclined, it could be said that his method of suicide was rather symbolic. Turing had partook in what was in his day forbidden. For this, he had been "cast out" of his chosen profession and what he loved to do -- in some sense, his Eden. As a final gesture before leaving this world, he ate a piece of forbidden fruit that was symbolic of this fact.

It's a tragedy that the ignorance and intolerance of first half of the 20th century could have driven such a brilliant man to suicide. If it weren't for Turing, much of what we take for granted today may be a lot different or may not even exist at all. Hopefully the world has wisened over the last 50 years.

Spyware (0)

jbfaninmo (540470) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115826)

So he's the bastard that is responsible for all that spyware I'm consiantly cleaning off of computers.

Thanks alot buddy!

The Turing Option (1)

mikestro (60854) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115831)

In case anyone is interested, check out the book "The Turing Option" which is based loosely on Alan Turing's concepts/etc:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/04 46 364967/002-6669792-7192001?v=glance

-Mike

"In case you forgot" (0)

ehintz (10572) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115864)

Ahh, yes, I was wondering who this Turing fellow was, but couldn't for the life of me remember. Now that we've cleared that up, can you remind me about this Linus Torvalds guy? And who the hell are Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson?

Really, I don't think too many self respecting /. readers will have "forgotten" who Alan Turing is... Perhaps a simple link for the n00bs would've been more appropriate.

Biographies and a correction (2, Informative)

GoPlayGo (541427) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115871)

An excellent biography is "Alan Turing, the Enigma" by Andrew Hodges, 1983, updated American edition 2000: http://www.turing.org.uk/book/

Derek Jacobi starred in a 1986 play about Alan Turing and also the excellent 1996 television adaptation. Videos can be purchased.

The site linked by the slashdot article incorrectly identifies a photograph of an Enigma machine. It shows the cryptographic device manufactured by the Germans to encode and decode messages. This is not a device invented by Turing. He had a key role in the development of the programmable computing systems used by the British to crack intercepted German messages.

Turing more than a genius (4, Informative)

kid zeus (563146) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115889)

Among other things he 'invented' the concept of digital recording of data. More interesting, the reason behind it (supposedly) was that he and his true love at school used to talk about death and the soul, and Turing was intrigued with discovering a way to record the information he felt made up the human soul, so that death would lose its sting and they would never have to be parted (mind being more important than body to him).

Definitely one of the handful of brightest minds of the 20th Century and one of the people most individually responsible for the victory of the Allies after WWII. His subsequent treatment was vile and deplorable, but hey, how is that new in the military? Check out those prisoners... mmm, mmm, mmm... that's some good stuff. Considering the hypocrisy involved in the British Military going after a homosexual for being a security risk, well, I'll just leave off here.

Turing's work on AI was so revolutionary that the entire field pretty much languished for a couple decades after his death until people finally started to pick up where he left off.

Don't forget Church! (1)

amightywind (691887) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115892)

Turing's contributions were obviously profound but Lisp fans demand that Alonzo Church's contributions be given similar recognition.

the Test of time (1)

moviepig.com (745183) | more than 10 years ago | (#9115921)

Don't forget about his proposal of the "Turing test", which ascribes intelligence to a machine if can successfuly masquerade as human via typewritten conversation.

More than a practical test, it continues to illustrate the inherent limits on such tests and concepts.

good riddance (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9115933)

A good faggot is a dead faggot. Good riddance
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