imitation game movie

Noel Chiappa jnc at
Tue Feb 10 13:13:09 CST 2015

    > From: Jon Elson

    > How about John von Neumann? Geez, I think he really ranks above Turing,
    > at least as far as building real machines.

This is unclear, for a whole host of reasons.

First, you should look at Turing's ACE. Designed by Turing, at about the same
time as the EDVAC, it spawned the Pilot ACE which was an important early
British computer (commercialized as the Deuce). This machine is too large a
topic to go into here, but may I suggest Copeland's admirable work on the
subject, "Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine" - among other interesting
aspects, he claims (and makes a good argument) that the ACE is RISC machine
(the first).

Turing was heavily involved in early computer work from the end of WWII until
his death (e.g. at the start of that period, he attended the Symposium on
Large Scale Digital Calculating Machinery at Hardvard in February, 1947).

Second, when assessing the relative important of the contributions of Turing
and von Neumann, there are a number of things to take into account.

First, one needs to be aware that he and Turing were close colleagues; before
WWII, Turing spent a year at Princeton working with von Neumann (who wanted
to hire Turing as his assistant, at the end of Turing's year there). During
WWII, Turing spent a long visit in the US (from November 1942 to March 1943),
during which he spent a lot of time at Bell Labs, where when not doing
war-work, he discussed computing machine with people there, including
Shannon. So Turing's ideas on stored program computing devices were well
known to von Neumann - who in fact seems to have always credited Turing with
the idea (see Copeland, "Turing", pp. 130-131).

Second, the 'EDVAC Report', despite the fact that it had only von Neumann's
name on it, in fact reported on a series of design discussions between he,
Eckert and Mauchly - and the latter two were rather annoyed that their
contributions were not adequately recognized in it. (Again, see Copeland,
"Turing", pp. 130-131 - although this point is treated at greater length in
other sources I don't have the time to track down.)

So von Neumann's _original_ contributions to computers may not be as big as
some think.


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