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Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age Hardcover – 29 Nov 2012
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This book is a worthy tribute to [Turing's] genius (Irish Examiner)
About the Author
Jack Copeland is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, where he is Director of the Turing Archive for the History of Computing. His books include The Essential Turing (Oxford University Press), Colossus: The Secrets of Bletchley Park's Codebreaking Computers (Oxford University Press), Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine (Oxford University Press), Logic and Reality: Essays on the Legacy of Arthur Prior (Oxford University Press), and Artificial Intelligence (Blackwell); and he has published more than 100 articles on the philosophy and history of computing, and mathematical and philosophical logic.
Top Customer Reviews
Turing was a problem-solver. Joining an arcane debate about whether everything in maths can be proved, his contribution was a paper called “On Computable Numbers” which – in 1936 ! - proposed a machine which could work as a calculator, a word processor or a games machine. By 1939, he was breaking the unbreakable codes of the Enigma machines which carried Germany's top secret orders.
The codes in Enigma changed daily according to secret protocols. The machine then re-coded the message through its own wiring, and changed the code yet again each time a letter was typed, so that “gun” might be “hqb”, but “zrk” in the next paragraph. There were only two ways to crack the Enigma code - pinch a machine, or work it out mathematically. The Bletchley people did both.
Jack Copeland is scrupulously fair – he doesn't gloss over Turing's failings, he gives credit to the people who worked with him, and makes clear where Turing's work has been airbrushed from history.
Wartime takes up only a third of the book. The real turning point is where Tommy Flowers of the GPO was brought in to develop what became known as “Colossus”, a computer that, for the first time, used valves instead of relays and so large that it was delivered to Bletchley on a lorry.
If the GPO had sent somebody else, electronic computers might not have arrived for years. Turing was working on voice encryption in 1942, and helped to create what we now call “RAM” - random access memory.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just right, I wanted to read about the person, this book gives an interesting insight, deals with the technical aspects of the machines, without over complicating them, which some... Read morePublished 8 months ago by mr yellow uk
HE certainly "saved" the Western world from tyrany and hatred. Should have been posthumously knighted. The way he was treated by the U.K. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Ann Williams
Very badly written. Although it contains a lot of information and gives better understanding of Turing's contribution to Enigma deciphering, it mixes uninteresting details. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Carles Blas
Brilliant book and a great read also came very quick thank you ******Published on 12 Jan. 2015 by Mr. S. Lombardo
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