Feeds

Happy Birthday, Turing's universal machine

Solving the unsolvable

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

It's just 71 years ago this month that a seminal paper from Alan Turing was published, which helped pave the way to today's multi-billion dollar IT industry and confer on Turing the title of father of modern computer science.

As is often the case in scientific endeavour, Turing was actually working on an entirely different task when he stumbled on a way to create a general-purpose computer.

The paper that encapsulated this machine? On Computable Numbers with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem.

The Entscheidungsproblem - which translated from German literally means "decision problem" - referred to a mathematical challenge laid down by German mathematician David Hilbert.

The Entscheidungsproblem goes to the very heart of Hilbert's thoughts on the nature of mathematics. At the start of the twentieth century deep questions were being asked about science and the tools used to think about scientific problems. In the same way that Einstein's work had challenged orthodox views of physics, so Hilbert and others questioned mathematics.

Hilbert posed three fundamental questions: is mathematics "complete", is it "consistent," and - the Entscheidungsproblem - is it "decidable". The first two were answered - negatively - in 1931 by the Austrian mathematician Kurt Godel.

Turing scuppered Hilbert's final question with his 1937 paper although the American mathematician Alonzo Church - later Turing's professor at Princeton - came up with a similar negative analysis a year earlier. The two approaches are generally combined as the Church-Turing Theorem.

Turing's real insight was, of course, the concept of a "Universal (or Turing) machine." He conceived the Universal Machine as a way to demonstrate that it was impossible to solve the Entscheidungsproblem.

But he had also stumbled on what was effectively the blue print for a general-purpose computer and this almost certainly justifies his status as the founder of modern computing.

Copies of Turing's original paper are available online both in facsimile and in text form. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
LOHAN Kickstarter breaks NINETEEN THOUSAND of your EARTH POUNDS
That's right, OVER 9,000 beer tokens - and counting
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.