Turing’s Enduring Importance

By Simson L. Garfinkel, Technology Review

He invented a logical formalism that described how a human computer, taught to follow a complex set of mathematical operations, would actually carry them out. Turing didn’t understand how human memory worked, so he modeled it as a long tape that could move back and forth and on which symbols could be written, erased, and read. He didn’t know how human learning worked, so he modeled it as a set of rules that the human would follow depending on the symbol currently before her and some kind of internal “state of mind.” Turing described the process in such exact detail that ultimately, a human computer wasn’t even needed to execute it—a machine could do it instead. Turing called this theoretical entity the “automatic machine” or a-machine; today we call it a Turing machine.

http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/39669/?p1=MstRcnt

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