Source: World Economic Forum
Today in 1936, Alan Turing delivered to the London Mathematical Society his paper “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem.” In the paper, Turing described the Universal Machine, which later became known as the Turing Machine. This was an idealized computing device that is capable of performing any mathematical computation that can be represented as an algorithm. Turing argued that cannot exist any universal method of decision and, hence, mathematics will always contain undecidable (as opposed to unknown) propositions.
The paper greatly influenced, in the subsequent decade, the advent of modern computer programming. Turing: “It is always possible for the computer to break off from his work, to go away and forget all about it, and later to come back and go on with it. If he does this he must leave a note of instructions (written in some standard form) explaining how the work is to be continued … The note of instructions must enable him to carry out one step and write the next note. Thus the state of progress of the computation at any stage is completely determined by the note of instructions and the symbols on the tape.“
The Turing Machine, as you may know, consists of a head scanning and modifying symbols on an infinite tape in accordance with a set of rules. What is less widely realized (until you read the entire article) is that this tape is simply a one-dimensional simplification of the square ruled paper that a human child would use to do sums at school; and the internal states of the machine are analogous to the state of mind of the human. I could hardly believe it: Turing, only 25 years old, was inventing the computer by deconstructing the mind!
Compare this to Charles Babbage, the inventor of the cogwheel-based Analytical Engine a century earlier. Babbage was attempting to build a far more complex computing engine than Turing’s abstract model, but was doing it by designing explicit mechanisms to carry out each of the required mathematical and logical operations. He did ingenious work, yet his approach had nothing to do with the human brain. Score one for Alan Turing.
See also Alan Turing 1912-1954
“These are a few brief samples from more than 20 hours of The Boston Computer Society General Meetings. Each meeting featured a leading personal computer industry visionary introducing a new product or technology to the world’s largest personal computer user organization. Many of the issues covered continue to be important today as technology evolves ever faster. With your help, these essential parts of personal computer history can be preserved for generations to come.”
Source: Computer History Museum
“Humans are good at a lot of things, but putting time in perspective is not one of them. It’s not our fault – the span of time in human history, and even more so in natural history, are so vast compared to the span of our life and recent history that it’s almost impossible to get a handle on it.”