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Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age Hardcover – 29 Nov 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (29 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199639795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199639793
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 3 x 14.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 689,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

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.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Why should anyone allergic to Maths read a book about Alan Turing the code-breaker of Bletchley Park ? Well, it's a rattling good story, and one well told here.

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.
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Format: 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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book after hearing that Benedict Cumberbatch was to play Alan Turing in the film The imitation game (which is such a brilliant film and he did an amazing job as always!) . I wanted to learn about Turing as i'd only read snippets of information about him. This book is brilliant and so well written, i found it so interesting and really got a good understanding of what a remarkable man he was. I went to see The imitation game when it came to the cinema and honestly my eyes were filled with tears throughout the whole film , what a wonderful man and we owe him so much, more than we could ever have given him. His story is heartbreaking and very interesting at the same time. I recommend this book over any others because i feel it's easier to delve into and really get stuck into where as some of the others ('The Enigma' for example are a bit hard going). I really hope to visit Bletchley park one day with my Dad , i feel it will be a very emotional but wonderful experience to see where this amazing man worked.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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