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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Turing's work and life explained
When I downloaded this book I feared it might be concerned with Turing's personal life at the expense of his mathematics, or vice versa. I was wrong: David Boyle gives an excellent balance.

Turing was an eccentric: at Bletchley Park he chained his mug to a radiator, held his trousers up with string and could be found knitting in a corner. He found social...
Published 2 months ago by John Benn

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
The book was interesting but I found it too technical and the philosophy was beyond me..(..even tho I am an academic...but not in that area). I had read "The Secrets of Bletchley Park" by Sinclair McKay and there seemed a lot of repetition, so I was a bit disappointed. However I am sure more scientifically minded people might appreciate it more.
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Published 3 months ago by Sylvia Flowers


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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Turing's work and life explained, 12 April 2014
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This review is from: Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
When I downloaded this book I feared it might be concerned with Turing's personal life at the expense of his mathematics, or vice versa. I was wrong: David Boyle gives an excellent balance.

Turing was an eccentric: at Bletchley Park he chained his mug to a radiator, held his trousers up with string and could be found knitting in a corner. He found social small-talk difficult. But his mathematical thinking was profound. His special interest was the creation of an intelligent machine.

He devised the tough Turing test for artificial intelligence: there would be a man, a woman, and an interrogator in a separate room trying to work out which was the woman - who would be trying to hinder the process. Now, said Turing, imagine the man was replaced with a machine. Could the interrogator tell whether they were talking to a machine or not after 5 minutes of questioning? Turing would have been satisfied if you couldn't tell which was the machine - his test was not concerned with whether the computer was actually 'thinking'.

As a mathematician Turing combined logic with intuition, and he believed that computers could also (eventually) be intuitive. Remember, this was before the digital age. When the opportunity arrived at Bletchley to create machines to assist in wartime code-breaking they were huge; and even the very latest version, the Colossus, had only 1500 valves.

Turing was particularly interested in 'the liars paradox': at its simplest you can express it just by saying 'I am lying'. The statement 'I am lying' must itself be a lie - unless I was actually telling the truth, in which case I would have been telling a lie. The question for Turing and his contemporaries was not so much whether the paradox could be resolved mathematically, but whether a solution could be resolved at all, by any other means. Turing wondered if some kind of machine was capable of working out the paradox. The answer, Turing said, was it could not. But this was the germ of an idea that eventually became a computer.

Turing didn't start from scratch. Looms were an important inspiration because weaving required punched cards which instructed the machine to weave certain patterns. (My note: first demonstrated in 1801 the Jacquard loom was controlled by a chain of punch cards allowing sequences of any length to be constructed. A portrait of Jacquard in silk required 24000 punched cards to create. The Jacquard loom was based on inventions from the early 18th century). The basics of computing had been conceptualised by the Victorian, Charles Babbage (who owned a Jacquard silk portrait) with his analytical engine - though Turing's friend Robin Gandy said that Turing had never heard of the Babbage engine. And at Bletchley the code-breakers had been helped by Polish mathematicians who had been able to read the German Enigma code for some time.

But Turing was thinking of a universal machine that could carry out all possible kinds of algorithms using a binary system to programme it based on the idea of punch cards used by looms, where the holes were either there or not; and like loom punch cards the programme could be changed.

Later, in his work at the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington he was frustrated by the ridiculous distinction between theoreticians and engineers. He resigned from Teddington in 1948.

Disgracefully by present standards Turing was arrested, convicted as a homosexual in 1952, and forced to take oestrogen treatment. This eventually lead to his suicide.

I strongly recommend David Boyle's book to anyone interested in Turing, the history of computers and artificial intelligence. Boyle concludes that Turing's reputation is growing.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account of Turing's achievements, 20 Feb 2014
This review is from: Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
When Alan Turing received a royal pardon at the close of last year, I quickly realised how little I knew of the man. The book covers more than just his most famous ideas/work as a codebreaker. It goes far back into his past to try and explain how and why he ended up the way he did. It makes for quite sad reading knowing the tragedy of his death in the end, but it proved to be a fascinating account of Turing's many achievements.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great primer for the forthcoming Cumberbatch film., 14 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
This short but comprehensive study of Alan Turing acts as a great primer for the forthcoming Benedict Cumberbatch film about the great man. In some ways Turing was as eccentric and brilliant as Sherlock Holmes and it'll be interesting to see how the actor plays him. Turing also wanted to live life on his own terms, though in the end it seems that he couldn't and his way out was suicide. I'm no expert on Turing but it seems that Boyle hasn't missed anything major out. Unlocking the Enigma is more than just a conventional biography though and the author grapples with Turing's life as well as his theories and accomplishments. I would have liked a bit more material on Turing's time at Bletchley Park, but this is a small criticism of an otherwise engaging book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unlocking the Enigma, 28 May 2014
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
This kindle single gives an interesting short biography of Alan Turing, the brilliant scientist best known for wartime code breaking at Bletchley Park and his pioneering contribution to the very beginning of information technology. This tells the story of his life from a bookish and withdrawn boy, independent and obsessed with mathematics, to an academic career which led to his important wartime work and a post-war period at King’s College where he faced difficulties in both the scientific world and his emotional life.

Alan Turing was both respected by colleagues and also infuriated many he knew. Like many great intellectuals, he cared little about external things – tying his trousers with string and staying in cheap hotels, even when he could afford better. He was also homosexual in a time when it was illegal and his sexuality was the reason for most of his troubles in later life. This book hinges on the 2013 request in the House of Lords for Turin to receive a statutory pardon for crimes relating to his homosexuality and there is also a fascinating possible link to Guy Burgess which I would like to read more about. Although this is a short book, it is a good introduction to a truly fascinating and ground breaking man.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very detailed Biography, 17 May 2014
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This review is from: Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
Very good read. Some of the diagrammatic detailing lost on Kindle. Book would perhaps have been better. Would therefore recommend trying in book form.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 2 April 2014
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This review is from: Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
The book was interesting but I found it too technical and the philosophy was beyond me..(..even tho I am an academic...but not in that area). I had read "The Secrets of Bletchley Park" by Sinclair McKay and there seemed a lot of repetition, so I was a bit disappointed. However I am sure more scientifically minded people might appreciate it more.
,
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unlocking his genius..., 13 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
Excellent all round biography of Turing which gets to grips with his achievements (which were many) and also his complicated personality. Boyle treats the reader with intelligence and he succeeds in making some of Turing's more complex ideas accessible. Time will have to tell how prophetic some of Turing's ideas will be in reference to AI, but what this book rightly testifies to is his contribution to mathematics, early computing and also the war effort. The book addresses Turing's death well too. The comments from Turing's mother that the author recalls are even quite touching, as well as insightful. It is perhaps beyond the power of any author to totally unlock the enigma of Alan Turing, but this biography is as good a starting place as any.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disj-ointed, 8 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
The book is very interesting but I found it to be a little dis-jointed in places. I have been interested in the subject for a long time and so enjoyed reading the book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 11 July 2014
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This review is from: Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
Well written brief review of someone who deserved more!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A good read., 10 July 2014
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This review is from: Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
Well worth a read. Clear and concise. I really liked it.
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