Get to Know Alan Turing

I was watching a C-SPAN2 video of Richard Dawkins (who by the way will be at the Clinton School of Public Service a week from this Thursday), and he mentioned in passing that Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science, was a homosexual who was arrested for having an “indecent” relationship. He was stripped of his security clearance, and died two years later of an apparent suicide. Not only did this man develop one of the first designs for a stored-program computer, he was also a brilliant cryptographer and, by breaking the toughest German codes, arguably did more to defeat the Germans than anyone else in England.

So it goes.

And as an FYI, the next time you have to read a little graphic and fill out a text field to log into a website, you’re using what’s called a CAPTCHA, a rather inelegant acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” While it’s quite different from a conventional Turing Test, it is nonetheless just another small way that Alan Turing lives on in our daily lives.

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