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When the movie talks about computers. Alan Turing and the development of computers.

A few days ago I went to the cinema to see the movie on the putlocker ‘The Imitation Game’ about the life of mathematician Alan Turing. He has always troubled me computer science, computing, to the point that my work well into old decided to pursue a technical career related to computing. The film gave me sane to reflect on some aspects recounted there.

One of the questions that arose me is if Turing had really built a computer, since in all computer manuals always referred to ENIAC , built in 1946 by Eckert and Mauchly at the University of Pennsylvania, as the first electronic computer general purpose hardware history.

Turing machine building in the film is not a general purpose computer, but a machine designed only to decipher codes, which was inspired by another Polish machine, the Bombe. The first design a Turing Bombe improved was assembled in 1940 and was named Victoria. However, in the film give the name of Christopher. Surely with this change they accentuate the poetic because Christopher is the name of a close friend of the childhood of Turing, but to me that name change seems to me a mistake because it gives the character an extra emotional charge, and quite disturbed take forever in film scientists.

Bombe machine.

Bombe machine.


Another license used in the film is call the Turing team members ‘crossword solvers’ when they were cryptanalysts ringside. I think that gives a false impression of the kind of work they did, because the public can see it as a matter of entertainment, when they are very complex things.

With these questions I started to seek information about the first computers. By 1943 it was building a computer that used electronic valves, by engineer Tommy Flowers on an initial idea of the mathematician Max Newman, whom the Turing himself contacted. Blenchley Park did not initially supported the project until the machine was assembled and saw her running. It was the Colossus , finished building in January 1944, who managed to decrypt all messages encrypted with the German Lorenz SZ 40/42, also known as Tunny, a much more complex than the Enigma encryption.

Colossus

Colossus


It is curious that the ten copies of Colossus had disappeared. Eight planes were destroyed and burned by order of Churchill after the war. The other two were dismantled back in the 50s and 60s for military and political reasons there were a total secrecy about the activities and achievements of contracifrado. Information on the existence of the machine was banned for many decades. In June 2000 the British government finally declassified information. That secrecy made the Colossus was not included in the history of computing hardware for a long time. And not only that, but the important role that these machines did, changing the course of the war and avoid a much greater loss of life was not known.

As I said earlier, Eckert and Mauchly ENIAC was presented to the public in 1946 as the first electronic computer machine. An interesting thing is that the ENIAC was programmed by a team of six women: Betty Holberton, Jean Bartik, Kathleen Antonelli, Marlyn Meltzer, Ruth Teitelbaum and Frances Spence. They did not go to history, as if they did the engineers who built the machine. Until the 80s it was said that those women who appear in the photos with the machine were “Refrigerators ladies”. However, his work was crucial in the development of programming in the 50s and 60s.

ENIAC and programmers

ENIAC and programmers


However, computer history , there have been many. The Analytical Engine of Babbage , conceived in 1816, is considered the first computer in history, although it was never finish ever built by financing difficulties and technology (its antecedent, the difference engine , itself was built in 1991 according the plans of Babbage own and there is a copy in the Science Museum in London). The machine was operated with a steam engine and according to the plans occupy a space of 30 m long and 10 m wide. It was soft and it was Ada Lovelace (daughter of Lord Byron, the poet) who designed what today might be considered the first software of history, so Ada is considered the first programmer in the world. The US Defense Department gave its name, ‘ADA’ a programming language.

And what about the famous ‘Turing machine’? The so – called ‘ Turing machine ‘ is not a physical machine but a concept related to the algorithms and computability (thesis Church-Turing ), emerged in response to the problem raised by David Hilbert in 1920 on whether mathematics is or not decidable , and it has had great importance in the subsequent development of materials such as computational complexity.

Turing machine

Turing machine


With all these ideas flitting through my head I read an article by Javier Sampedro in El País Semanal on “Geniuses between inspiration and madness” where it extends over the two recent films about scientists ‘theory of everything’ about Stephen Hawking and ‘the Imitation Game’ on Alan Turing, who recently saw and is the germ of this post. Sampedro proposes more names of great scientists to go closer to the general public through film, since it seems to be a good method of disclosure.

Sampedro in his article reports that, after the war, Turing designed the first electronic digital computer of general purpose stored – program, the ACE (Automatic Computing Engine). I mean yes, finally it seems that Turing himself who designed a real computer, to 1946. Searching the Internet can find some of the history of the ACE , where you will also find information EDVAC John von Newmann, designed in 1945 , and built a little after the ENIAC at the same University of Pennsylvania and Eckert and Mauchly which collaborated with Von Newman. The EDVAC was already using binary code, as the current machines, unlike the ENIAC used decimal code.

ACE

ACE


It seems that there was simultaneously a crowd of studies and designs, as they always occur at each technological advance. Scientists and technology were ripe to make the leap to digital computing. Perhaps, on the other hand, motivated by political and social moment triggers. An investigation that, as we see was intensive and extensive, in terms of economic, armamentísticas, social and even gender implications.