1088 words - 4 pages

Alan Turning

Alan Turning is known to be a pioneer of many facets of the computer age. The digital computer, artificial intelligence, memory subroutines, the Turning Machine, the Turing Test, and the application of algorithms to computers are all ideas somehow related to this man.

Alan Mathison Turing was born in Paddington, London, on June 23, 1912. He was a precocious child and began his interests in science and mathematics at a young age, but was never concerned about other right-brain classes such as English. This continued until an important friend of his passed away and set Turing on a path to achieve what his friend could no longer accomplish. When his friend Christopher Morcom died, Turing was launched into thoughts in physics about the physical mind being embodied in matter and whether quantum-mechanical theory affects the traditional problem of mind and matter. Many say today that this was the beginnings of Turing’s Turning Machine and the test still used today for artificial intelligence, the Turing Test.

Soon after his public schooling Turing began working on his undergraduate at King’s College. Here he became interested in the readings of Von Neumann’s quests into the logical foundations of quantum mechanics. Through these readings Turing was believed to structure his thinking from the emotional states that he had been suffering from to a more valid form of thought.

Turing earned a fellowship at King’s college and the following year the Smith’s Prize for his work in probability theory. Afterward, he chose a path away from pure math into mathematical logic and began to work on solving the Entscheidungsproblem, a problem in decidability. This was an attempt to prove that there was a method by which any given mathematical assertion was provable. As he began to dive in to this he worked on first defining what a method was. In doing so he began what today is called the Turing Machine. The Turing Machine is a three-fold inspiration composed of logical instructions, the action of the mind, and a machine which can in principle be embodied in a practical physical form. It is the application of an algorithm embodied in a finite state machine.

The Turing Machine is a simple kind of computer. It is limited to reading and writing symbols on a tape and moving the tape along to the left or right. The tape is marked off into squares, each square representing a cell. Each cell on the tape can hold at most one symbol. At any point when the Turing Machine is operating it can read or write on one of these cells, the cell located under the read/write head. One aspect that set the Turning Machine apart from other computational machines of the same period was that the Turing Machine was designed to perform many functions. It could do any function that was fed to it on this tape that acted as an algorithm, whereas, other computational machines at that time were designed to perform only one task. The concept of...

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