Gibbons Lecture Series: Alan Turing and the Computing Engine
Turing's achievements in practical computing
Speakers: Professor Brian Carpenter & Professor Bob Doran, Department of Computer Science, The University of Auckland
Brian E. Carpenter joined the University of Auckland in September 2007. He was appointed Professor in January 2009. Before that, he spent ten years with IBM at various locations, working on Internet standards and technology, as a Distinguished Engineer and a member of the IBM Academy of Technology. Before joining IBM, he led the networking group at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1985 to 1996. This followed ten years' experience in software for process control systems at CERN, which was interrupted by three years teaching undergraduate computer science at Massey University in New Zealand.
Bob Doran is an Emeritus Professor in our department where he has been since 1982, including 11 years as Head of Department. He worked as a Computer Architect for mainframe computers at Amdahl Corporation in California. Prior to this he was with Massey University when Computer Science started in New Zealand. He has continued research interests in the history of computing.
Synopsis: In mid 1945 Turing was recruited by the British National Physical Laboratory to work on the design of what was intended to be Britain's first computer, the ACE. Turing produced a written proposal that was approved to proceed in early 1946. For two years Turing worked on the design of ACE and its software. However, the ACE project did not progress as expected so, after a year at Cambridge University, Turing moved to Manchester University where he was responsible for the initial development of software for the world's first operating computer. The NPL Pilot ACE, the initial implementation of Turing's designs, was finally operational in 1950 and led to the very successful English Electric DEUCE computers.
Although we now acknowledge that Turing made great contributions to practical computing, this was not widely acknowledged from the time of his early death (1954) until the 1980s. As well as summarizing Turing's practical accomplishments we will look into the circumstances of how and why he was so long marginalized in the accepted history of practical computing.