Monday 8 September 2014

The Imitation Game @TIGmovie @BletchleyPark

For wholly different reasons, my daughter and I are thrilled to see a date for the premiere of The Imitation Game movie in London and the UK. She's thrilled because it features Benedict "Sherlock" Cumberbatch; I'm thrilled because it's a big screen depiction of the life and work of Alan Turing - the British pioneer of modern day computing.

Many would say that Alan Turing started the digital revolution. Although others around the world (such as the American Alonzo Church) had done some work, it was Alan Turing who envisaged and designed a machine that could be programmed to solve an infinite number of problems by being given a rule set upon which it would base its actions. In fact, it could theoretically solve any problem for which there was a solution (hence, it is basically a modern computer).

It was Alan Turing who was instrumental in the development of the Bombe at Bletchley Park and it was Alan Turing whose ground-breaking ideas about Artificial Intelligence (AI) really pushed the boundaries of mathematical thinking at that time.

When Time magazine published its list of the 100 most important people of the twentieth century in 1999, they included Alan Turing in that list and said of him:
"The fact remains that everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine."
Turing's sorry, shabby reward for the instrumental role he played in winning the war for Britain was to be persecuted during the Cold War because his homosexuality was viewed as a security risk, to the point that he committed suicide. His pardon last year was a small recognition of his country's past mistakes.

The two most well known of his papers are:
If you can't wait until the general release of the film, to get a fix of Bletchley or Enigma or Turing, you might like to read Robert Harris's Enigma (or watch the film version), or Jack Norman's Broken Crystal. Both are good semi-fictional reads.