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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent exploration of Turing's life and vast contribution to the history of computing, 16 Aug 2014
By 
Brian Clegg "Brian Clegg" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age (Hardcover)
Alan Turing is a name that has grown in stature over the years. When I first got interested in computers all you really heard about was the Turing test – the idea of testing if a computer could think by having a conversation by teletype and seeing if you could tell if there was a computer or a human at the other end. Then came the revelations of the amazing code breaking work at Bletchley Park. Now, though, we know that Turing was much more than this, the single person who most deserves to be called the father of the computer (we allow Babbage to be grandfather).

All this and much more comes through in B. Jack Copeland’s superb biography of Turing. It’s not surprising this book (and its competitors) is on sale now. 2012 is the hundredth anniversary of Turing’s birth. And it is a timely reminder of just how important Turing was to the development of the the technology that is at the heart of much of our everyday lives (including the iPad I’m typing this on today).

If I had to find fault at all with this book, it can be a little summary in some aspects of Turing’s private life – but I suspect this reflects the lack of information from a very private man. However if, like me, you’re a bit of a computer geek it would be impossible not to be fascinated by the description of his ideas and the technology that was developed from them, beautifully written by Copeland. I’ve read plenty before about Enigma, but the section on this was still interesting, and the Tunny material (a later, more sophisticated German coding device, to crack which the Colossus computer was developed) was all new to me.

Similarly, I hadn’t realised how many firsts belong in the UK rather than the US. I knew Turing’s work led to the first stored program electronic computer – the first true computer in a modern sense – but I hadn’t realised, for instance that Turing was the first to write the code for computer generated music, with the first computer music in the world produced using that code in Manchester (contrary to the myths you are likely to see online).

Although some of the personal life information is a little sketchy, Copeland really delivers on Turing’s death. I had always accepted the story that he committed suicide with a poisoned apple as a result of the ‘chemical castration’ he chose as an alternative to prison for admitting homosexual acts. Copeland tears this myth to pieces. Turing had endured the hormone treatment with amusement – and it had finished a year before his death. By then he was fully recovered. He appears to have been happy and positive at the time of his death. He left a part-eaten apple by his bed every night. And he was experimenting on electroplating in a room adjacent to his bedroom – using a solution that gave off hydrogen cyanide. The postmortem was very poor, without testing whether the cyanide that killed him had been ingested or inhaled. The evidence seems strong that Turing’s death was an unfortunate accident, not the tragic suicide that is usually portrayed.

In the end I can strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in computing should rush out and buy a copy of this book. Well written, fascinating and overthrowing a number of myths, it’s a must-have.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Turing, 10 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age (Hardcover)
Liked it but it has rather a lot of technical detail. Somethings I did not quite understand. Good biography of a tormented man !
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! Well written, full of explanation and history, 31 Mar 2014
By 
Charles Brewer (Westcott, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age (Hardcover)
Alan Turning may not have been that fortunate in life, but he has been outstandingly lucky in his biographers. Something like 20 years ago I read Andrew Hodges' work, and thought is a near-perfect example of the genre. It covered the astonishingly original work in maths, philosophy and even gadget invention side of Turing and also gave what I considered a well-balanced interpretation of him being a gay man in a general society where this was illegal and disliked, but also in a smaller, academic world where it was of no more particular note that the fact that he was clumsy.

Copeland has somehow managed to craft yet another biography which goes through material which didn't appear in detail in Hodges' book (almost certainly for security reasons - the story of the Tunny machines is both hilarious - were the Russians really that stupid, we know Amin was - and fascinating) and which gives yet another angle on this odd, clearly difficult man. Turning's astonishing inventiveness and ability to find radically new ways of looking at questions was stifled by the bureaucracy and stupidity of the post-War government - the ones who gave away jet technology to the Russians and, it seems, managed to destroy the British leads in virtually every technology that was going to matter in the next 50 years.

Copeland also reinterprets Turing's treatment as a criminal and manages - I hope accurately - to give the impression that Turing bore his disgraceful treatment with equanimity and that it left no serious scars (or indeed dimuinution of his finding men attractive).

He also leaves open the cause of Turing's death. Personally, I hope it was simply that it was simply another manifestation of his clumsiness.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting book., 11 April 2013
By 
Mr. Bryan Davies (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I am very interested in code breaking during the war years 1939-45.
This book covers Turing's part in this most valueable war effort.
A great read if you like code breaking.
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Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age
Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age by B. Jack Copeland (Hardcover - 29 Nov 2012)
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