Lecture 1: "Bye Bye Turing Hype"


October 2019

Here's my first video lecture on "History of Computer Science (and much more)".

I remember attending the "First International Conference on the History and Philosophy of Computing" in Ghent in November 2011 where I had a discussion with Pierre Mounier-Kuhn on Alan Turing's legacy and the hype surrounding Turing. If I recall well, Mounier-Kuhn and I were two of very few historians (not to mention computer scientists) who, at that time, openly challenged the aforementioned hype and, in particular, the claim that Alan Turing had invented the modern computer. In retrospect then, I should have mentioned the following source in my video lecture as well:

  • P. Mounier-Kuhn. "Logic and Computing in France: A Late Convergence". In: AISB/IACAP World Congress 2012 — History and Philosophy of Programming. Ed. by L. De Mol and G. Primiero. 2012, pp. 44-47.

Also, I promised in my video the first chapter of my 2016 book Turing Tales: available here.

More sources mentioned in my lecture

  • S.C. Kleene, Introduction to Metamathematics. Princeton, New Jersey: Van Nostrand, 1952.
  • M. Davis. Computability and Unsolvability. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958.
  • M. Davis. The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing. Florida: Norton, 2000.
  • J. Kemeny. Man Viewed as a Machine. Scientific American, Vol. 192, No. 4, 1955.
  • A. Hodges. Alan Turing: The Enigma. London: Burnett Books, 1983.
  • J.A. Robinson. Logic, computers, Turing, and von Neumann". In: Machine Intelligence 13: Machine Intelligence and Inductive Learning. Ed. by K. Furukawa, D. Michie, and S. Muggleton. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994, pp. 1-35.
  • T. Haigh. Actually, Turing Did Not Invent the Computer. Communications of the ACM, Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 36-41, January 2014.
  • E.G. Daylight. A Turing Tale. Communications of the ACM, Vol. 57, No. 10, pp. 36-38, 2014.
  • M. Bullynck, E.G. Daylight, L. De Mol. Why Did Computer Science Make a Hero out of Turing? Communications of the ACM, Vol. 58, No. 3, pp. 37-39, March 2015.
  • L. Corry. Turing's Pre-War Analog Computers: The Fatherhood of the Modern Computer Revisited. Communications of the ACM, Vol. 60, No. 8, pp. 50-58, 2017.
    • The best piece of work on the "Turing — von Neumann" connection.

More related sources 

 Comments received via email

"You had a question about a quote by Gorn.  Just a shot in the dark here, but "algorithmizing" was a term used by Perlis in the late 1950s.  He used it to refer to how algorithms become a part of people's basic mental models and thought processes, and it becomes a way of looking at the world, a way of looking at problems solved.  Maybe that's what Gorn referred to with that strange-sounding quote?  (It doesn't sound that strange to me, though, having read all this sense+nonsense about computational thinking and its ramifications.)

See Perlis's description in Donald L. Katz. 1960. Conference Report on the Use of Computers in Engineering Classroom Instruction. Commun. ACM 3, 10 (1960), 522–527.  I've got some other sources that date the phrase to late 1950s (1959?), but I'm sure he's been talking about it a lot and maybe earlier too — and he was an influential character, so it might be possible to be within your timeline, too?  Or maybe not.  Just a guess."


[Last updated: 14 February 2020]