Alan Turing: The World’s First Computer

Harley Dixon
January 14, 2020 0 Comment

Considered by many as the father of modern computer science, Alan Turing was a British code-breaker that gained prominence during World War 2 for the invention of the world’s very first working computer, a machine that was used in part to win the war for the allies.

Turing was a misunderstood but highly intelligent man that paved the way for most of today’s studies on computers and artificial intelligence, and the world would not have turned out the same without him.

Turing’s Early Life

Alan Turing was born Alan Mathison on the 23rd of June 1912 in Maida Vale, London. From an early age, he displayed signs of extremely high intelligence, often which his teachers at the time did recognise but did not come to respect in any manner.

He joined Sherborne School at the age of 13, and became interested in science and maths. After attending Sherborne, Turing would go on to enrol at King’s College – now the University of Cambridge – where he would study from 1931 to 1934. He was elected a fellow at the school after his graduation after he was able to prove the central limit theorem.

Over the following two years, he would study cryptology and mathematics at the Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. After receiving his doctorate, he returned to the Cambridge, where he took a position with the Government Code and Cypher school, a permanent of the government concerned with code breaking.

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His Role in The War

Once the war had begun, Turing had become the leading participant in code breaking, specifically codes that dealt with German ciphers. He worked at Bletchley Park, which was a GCCS wartime station, where he made a number of important advances toward breaking ciphers. His contribution to breaking Nazi code was invaluable. He would later move to London in the mid 1940s, where he would work on the Automatic Computer Engine, and ultimately create the blueprint from computers that were able to store programs. Though his version of the ACE was never fully constructed, its concept had been used by technology companies and corporations for a number of years, which would lead to the creation of the English Electric DEUCE and the American Bendix G-15 – which is considered by many as the world’s very first personal computer. These would go on to become the computers we use for everything from sending emails to enjoying New Zealand sports betting.

He would hold a number of high-ranking positions within the department of mathematics, and would later lead the computing laboratory at the University of Manchester during the later years of the 1940s.

Conviction and Death

Alan Turing had been homosexual, and at the time, it was a crime that was illegal under United Kingdom law. After a break in at his house in 1952, Turing would admit his homosexuality to police; he was charged with gross indecency. After his arrest, he was forced to choose between probation on the condition that he would submit to hormonal treatment, or long-term imprisonment. He ultimately chose the former, but years of hormone treatment and depression led to his untimely suicide on the 7th of June 1954.