Alan Turing was born a century ago. Just sixty-four years ago, in 1948, a first very small
stored-program digital computer was working at Manchester. In between lies an
extraordinary story. Alan Turing's
1936 concept of a universal machine provided the theory of the modern computer.
The secret codebreaking triumphs of wartime Bletchley Park, also led by Alan Turing's
work, showed the practical possibilities for building it. Like any scientific story,
the emergence of the computer was complex, involving extensive collaboration and
competition. But Alan Turing's
individual part in it has now achieved a special public recognition. One reason
for this is his overarching concern to relate computing to human nature.
Another lies in the drama of his own short life, one with profound
resonances of innocence and experience.