I read the book, The Imitation Game, about Alan Turing recently. Turing was a genius mathematician at Cambridge in the 1930s and 1940s. He developed the first ideas about a universal machine to solve problems, a machine that could take instructions and operate internally to produce output. This was different to all machines up to that point because machines were always designed to operate in one way only, often brilliantly, but could not be used for another operation without significant changes to their hardware. A universal machine did not need hardware alterations to perform a new task. This seems second nature to us now, of course, as we all have personal computers.
The “imitation” in the title refers to the way a universal machine, what came to be known as a digital computer, had the potential to imitate human thought and speech. There came to be an idea known as the Turing Test, where a person interacts with a computer and has to judge whether he is speaking to a computer, or a concealed person trying to imitate the computer. This idea is still valid today, when computers have developed capabilities in speech far beyond Alan Turing’s designs. Take Siri as the example.
The book is brilliant. The author is a Cambridge mathematician himself, so all the mathematical concepts are explained to quite a high level. It is not light reading. It’s over 500 pages of detailed biography of a genius. A genius who was homosexual at a time when homosexuality was a serious crime. Unfortunately Turing was betrayed by a young man he befriended and was tried and convicted. He was offered the choice of four years’ jail, or to take oestrogen to chemically castrate him. He chose this. He took the treatment for several years but suddenly, without any warning or explanation, killed himself in 1954. He was supposed to have eaten an apple soaked in cyanide. He has since been given an official pardon. Bit late.
Why am I writing this? I bought the DVD of the movie, The Imitation Game and watched it last night.
What a travesty! What a bastardisation of the true story. What a stupid American treatment, making him look like a bumbling weak man who was persecuted by the people at Bletchley Park, the code breaking establishment in WW2. He wasn’t persecuted or bullied. He had to press hard for funds and resources, going direct to Winston Churchill at one stage, but he was always treated with respect by the top people, not ridiculed and bullied.
In the movie, Turing’s co-workers, male mathematicians, are shown dancing around and hugging each other when they get their machine to work. British men didn’t hug each other! Some might now, but it would never have happened then.
A woman, Joan Clark, is shown as becoming part of the main code breaking group, as she is also a maths genius. She was certainly in the book and for a while became engaged to Turing, but she wasn’t a mathematician. She was a very competent and bright code breaker, but not like the movie portrays. They obviously needed a female “star”.
So if you haven’t read the book and don’t intend to, by all means see the movie. But if you’ve read the book, prepare to be disappointed This is a Hollywood treatment of a British episode and it’s rubbish.
Look at all the ingredients in this list! What is it? Nail varnish. Why have I got it? I’m plagued by brittle nails and I thought I might try this hardening varnish. Too early to tell whether it will be useful yet, but I’m amazed at this long list of ingredients. Green Tea. Wow. Pro Vitamin B5. Is there such a thing? I doubt it.
I said I bought a new GPS unit a few weeks ago and I must say I’m very impressed with it. It’s the Navman MiVue Drive, and its virtue is that it has a forward facing camera to record your trip. When you get home and play it back, the moving GPS map appears alongside the video on your computer screen, complete with your speed and exact coordinates so that you have a very accurate record in case you need it. The camera is reasonably high definition, 1280 x 720, and it’s quite a good picture. The one problem is that my windscreen is very sandblasted and smeary, so reflections are a problem. I tried making a little lens hood out of cardboard, stuck on with chewing gum, and it helped quite a bit, so I might make a more permanent one. The chewing gum goes all sticky and hard from the heat in the sun, so I’ll probably use Blu Tack.
My car insurance specifically says I am entitled to claim a windscreen once a year. I’ve never done so and never make any claims, so I might have to have a windscreen “accident”.
Anyway, my TomTom GPS has been semi retired. I have always liked TomTom but this Navman has me hooked. I like it better!