This entry deserves a note. Turing’s work lays the foundations of the microprocessor — this article provides an entry into the answer to the question of how that is. A microprocessor is a very bounded object — it will never outgrow Turing’s definition of it. Likewise, all computer languages are actually deeply equivalent. These questions are both interesting and comprehensible — and it is in the work of Alan Turing that their answers are to be found.
Turing provided the first application of his own ideas cracking the Enigma cipher machine, and thereby delivering the Atlantic Ocean to the Allies in World War II. England proved itself undeserving of his assistance by turning on him, after having won the war, for his homosexuality, and prosecuting him for gross indecency — leading to his suicide.
There may be a blacker betrayal in world history, but I am unaware of it. We will never know how many days of bombing London was spared directly as a result of his work, nor how many ships were not sunk by German torpedoes.
After working on the Enigma cypher, he turned to the Automated Computing Engine
From Andrew Hodges oration at the laying of a dedicatory plaque at Alan Turing’s birthplace:
Alan Turing spoke the then unspeakable and showed no shame, although the hurt lay deep; and for that reason his suicide two years later fitted no stereotype of the defeated. He was a marathon runner, not given to giving up. But time has partly revealed his secret song of innocence and experience, and given significance to the veiled image of the poisoned apple. Being a free-thinking free-living and open homosexual could not, at the height of Cold War panic, be consistent with his chosen duty, of knowing innermost secrets of the security state. True, he ridiculed his surveillance by policemen he called ‘the poor sweeties,’ but it does not amaze me that eventually he found existence self-contradictory and life unliveable, on that tenth anniversary of the invasion made possible by his work.
Even the most independent mind can be robbed of will and purpose and meaning by friendly fire. But until that bitter end, he insisted on adventure both in personal and in scientific exploration: developing his futuristic non-linear biological theory as the world’s first personal computer user at Manchester University. I wish I could unveil where his prolific last years would have led: to chaos theory, perhaps; to a nonlinear quantum mechanics, or cosmology. Instead, they were lost in a death that brought more stigma on himself and inflicted a wound on all around him.
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