Turing's Real Machines

Speaker: Michael R. Williams

Date: Wed, Feb 29, 2012

Location: PIMS, University of Calgary

Conference: Alan Turing Year

Subject: Mathematics, Computational Complexity, Discrete Mathematics, Information Theory and Cryptography, Logic and Foundations, Computer Science

Class: Scientific


While Turing is best known for his abstract concept of a "Turing Machine," he did design (but not build) several other machines - particularly ones involved with code breaking and early computers. While Turing was a fine mathematician, he could not be trusted to actually try and construct the machines he designed - he would almost always break some delicate piece of equipment if he tried to do anything practical.

The early code-breaking machines (known as "bombes" - the Polish word for bomb, because of their loud ticking noise) were not designed by Turing but he had a hand in several later machines known as "Robinsons" and eventually the Colossus machines.

After the War he worked on an electronic computer design for the National Physical Laboratory - an innovative design unlike the other computing machines being considered at the time. He left the NPL before the machine was operational but made other contributions to early computers such as those being constructed at Manchester University.

This talk will describe some of his ideas behind these machines.


Turing 2012 - Calgary

This talk is part of a series celebrating The Alan Turing Centenary in Calgary. The following mathtube videos are also part of this series

  1. Alan Turing and the Decision Problem, Richard Zach.
  2. Turing's Real Machine, Michael R. Williams.
  3. Alan Turing and Enigma, John R. Ferris.