Turing contributed to a major breakthrough in the Allies' ability to crack Nazi codes when he designed the electromechanical bombe machine.
The machine was devised to crack Enigma ciphers, which was used by the German army, navy and air force to protect their communications.
Every day the German military would change the settings used to encrypt messages and each day the Bletchley codebreakers were engaged in a race against time to crack the code.
To help with the decryption, Turing designed the bombe in 1939, a rebuilt version of which can be seen above. Each bombe was built to work as if it were several Enigma enciphering machines wired together and could narrow down the settings used to encrypt each message far more quickly than a human. By the end of the war, more than 200 of the machines were being used in the UK to crack codes.
Photo: Nick Heath/TechRepublic
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.
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.
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.
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.
... 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.