Happy 100th Birthday, Alan Turing: Meet The Father Of Computers [Video]
June 23rd will mark the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing’s birth, and tech-heads are celebrating the centennial of one of computing‘s most famous figures all over the world.
BBC News featured an article today by Turing award winner and Google big-wig Vint Cerf. The article provides a brief overview of Turing’s computing achievements. He developed the Bombe decryption machine (which kicked Nazi ass in WWII). He also worked on the Automatic Computing Engine (Ace), and came up with the idea of storing files digitally.
Basically, if you’re unfamiliar with Turing, you can think of him as computing’s Nikola Tesla. Way ahead of his time with an imagination bound by the era he lived in.
Rick Rashid, chief research officer at Microsoft Research, said of Turing, “In a sense, the whole field of computing owes a huge debt to him. Alan Turing is really one of the first people to establish what a computer was, and what computation meant, which had a huge influence on the whole field,” in an interview with Wired.
Turing is also known as a prominent homosexual figure, even gay hero. Though Turing Week (the week celebrating and leading up to Alan Turing’s birthday) focuses squarely on the science behind the man, he is remembered in some circles as a tragic gay hero. The postwar culture was particularly harsh for him, according to MSNBC.
In 1952, when homosexuality was a crime and considered gross indecency, and Turing chose chemical castration rather than a prison sentence. A rocky relationship with a man who attempted to rob him exposed his homosexuality to the public, and Turing was shunned from working within the British government. Two years after his conviction, Turing died in his lab by eating a poisoned apple.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered a posthumous apology to Turing in 2009, admitting that he “truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war,” continuing, “The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely,” Brown said. “We’re sorry. You deserved so much better.”
Happy 100th birthday, Alan Turing. Thank you for the computer!