Hardware

Alan Turing: Exhibition offers rare glimpse of the man behind the enigma

Turing drew up designs for the Automatic Computing Engine or ACE, whose capabilities would be a step beyond those of Colossus, in that it would be a stored-program and general-purpose computer.

ACE, which was built and installed at the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington, generated excited headlines in the British press when it ran its first program in 1950, with one paper proclaiming, "ACE may be the fastest brain, month's work in a minute".

ACE had a clock speed of 1MHz, making it exceptionally fast for its day. A room-sized commercial version of the first model called DEUCE was also produced and became the foundation of the emerging British computer industry.

The first personal desk-side computer, the Bendix G-15, was also based on Turing's ACE design. Marketed by the US-based Bendix Corporation from 1954, the G-15 looked like a jumbo-size kitchen refrigerator and was the forerunner of the modern desktop computer.

Photo: Courtesy of the National Physical Laboratory

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Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

4 comments
sboverie
sboverie

What was not mentioned in the article but also applies for today is that Turing was gay. The British viewed that as a perversion that could be fixed by chemical castration. The irony was that a grateful nation honors him for his major contribution to cracking the enigma code and then turn around and prosecute him as a criminal. His death by cyanide was ruled suicide although some think it was an accident. I am not gay, but I believe that homosexuals are a result of biology than choice. I have met many gay people who said that they were always gay from childhood or birth. They also state that if it was a choice that it would be stupid one considering how marginalized and bullied they are.

Proportal
Proportal

I am glad Turing is getting the recognition he deserves, but I am always a bit saddened that in the discussions more isn't made of Tommy Flowers who, although working under the direction of Turing and Max Newman designed and built Colossus - and personally financed it. Things would have taken a great deal longer if the guys at Bletchley hadn't had the expertise of Flowers to turn their maths theorems into mechanical reality. They are all giants in their field and should all be recognised.

jag022054
jag022054

When I was in school 40 years ago they barely mentioned Alan Turring or John Von Neumann. The history of computing focused on the engineers like Eckert and Mauchly, or the business men like Thomas Watson. Obviously these guys made big contributions, but without Turring and Von Neumann computers would be the size of office buildings and take a small army to program.

emdublu
emdublu

... because of what happened at Bletchley Park during the war, all those involved were sworn to secrecy and the UK Government kept very quiet.as well:) I'm not surprised they were never mentioned. Only in recent years have people learnt more about their contribution. Worth looking at www.bletchleypark.org.uk if you are interested.