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Turing's Pre-War Analog Computers: The Fatherhood of the Modern Computer Revisited


Alan Turing finishing a race

Alan Turing finishing a race, 1946.

Credit: National Physical Laboratory

Alan Turing is often praised as the foremost figure in the historical process that led to the rise of the modern electronic computer. Particular attention has been devoted to the purported connection between a "Universal Turing Machine" (UTM), as introduced in Turing's article of 1936,27 and the design and implementation in the mid-1940s of the first stored-program computers, with particular emphasis on the respective proposals of John von Neumann for the EDVAC30 and of Turing himself for the ACE.26

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In some recent accounts, von Neumann's and Turing's proposals (and the machines built on them) are unambiguously described as direct implementations of a UTM, as defined in 1936. Most noticeable in this regard are the writings of Jack Copeland and his collaborators, as stated in the following example:


 

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