Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Turing Machine

There's a petition to have an official pardon for Alan Turing.

It's easy to dismiss revisionism as not worthy of consideration. I have some sympathy with that as I am not a fan of the idea of the 'sins of the fathers'. It's very un-Catholic!

However, whilst I firmly believe that we are responsible for our own actions but it doesn't excuse us from understanding history.

When I was 15, one programme made a huge impact on me. Horizon broadcast "Now The Chips Are Down" probably the most life changing TV programme I ever watched.

I was at the time interested in electronics so it wasn't a great leap to venture into the world of computing. But it was a different world then. The MK14 was the height of sophistication. The ZX80 was the stuff of dreams.

I couldn't afford a computer. I wrote programmes and "dry ran" them on paper which was beneficial when I started work with ICL as a kernel dump cracker (think working out from the Microsoft Windows blue screen of death why your PC had crashed and scale it up to a mainframe!)

But as a result of the programme I was responsible for my school starting to run a computer science course which was also also notable because our teacher (David Sayers) hated computers!

So why is Alan Turing such a hero to me?
  • Sure he was involved in Bletchley Park and helped shorten the Second World War.
  • To the LGBT community he is a symbol of persecution and the unjust way society treated people. [Dirk Bogarde in Victim made a similar impact on me when I saw it on TV in the 70s.
These are both important in their own way but not why Alan Turing deserves place amongst the greats. Tim Berners-Lee did good things but he was not as ground breaking as Alan Turing.

Turing was the person who made computer science a science. Separate from mathematics and more akin to philosophy. A real dscipline in it's own right. The World owes him a debt.

Sign the petition. to honour a real British hero.

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