Alan Turing’s deserving tribute

Alan TuringThe Imitation Game is mind blowing on several levels, but at the end I could not help but think how much my wife Ann and I owe Alan Turing. You see, we’ve both enjoyed long, rewarding and lucrative careers in computer journalism (mostly before the COMPUTER Internet wreaked havoc on print publishing).

Everyone in the massive worldwide computer industry likewise should thank Turing. His creation of the theoretical “Turing machines” pioneered what CPUs would eventually do.

Computers would have likely appeared in the fifties given there were so many brilliant mathematicians, scientists, researchers and tinkerers working on machines that could cipher and remember like humans. But Turing’s work on what would become computers and breaking the German Enigma code in World War II was instrumental in their evolution.

It’s estimated that Turing’s work also shortened the war with Germany by two to four years and saved millions of lives.

This is one of the few movies when Ann and I sat speechless as the credits rolled up the screen. Ann, who started as a photographer at Computerworld in 1974, remembers Turing’s name coming up many times as a pioneer in the creating of the modern day mainframe computer. She started covering mainframe computers a mere 20 years after Turing’s death and six years before I did. In proportion and weight, Turing’s immovable “bombe” code breaking computer was every bit a mainframe.

For all his achievement, Turing in life was treated shabbily. He committed suicide in 1954, shortly after his conviction on indecency charges. Turing was gay and acting out on that was illegal in Britain back them. The narrow mindedness of the era seems staggering.

The New York Times and The New Yorker all but panned the movie on some intellectually irrelevant grounds (and not on historical accuracy). I’ll go with Rotten Tomatoes, which gave it a 95% favorability rating.

Great performances all around and especially by Benedict Cumberbatch. Easily a candidate for best picture, actor and screenplay (the movie is based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma.)

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