Happy Birthday, Alan Turing

Today is Alan Turing's birthday. Happy birthday, old bean! Thanks for all the crypto and the foundations of modern computing and the seminal AI work. Sorry about the bigots who murdered you. (Thanks, dr.hypercube!)


  1. I’d be interested to see if anybody manages to translate this bit of (apparent) Enigma code from the Alan Turing memorial:



    One claim is that it decodes as FOUNDEROFCOMPUTERSCIENCE, but as others have pointed out, this can’t be, because both have the 14th letter U, and the Enigma machine can’t work that way.

    Assuming the artist didn’t make a mistake, I think it’s going to be almost impossible for someone to crack it without further info, because there were so many different versions of the Enigma machine, and with no data on the rotor start positions, plugboard settings, etc. Let alone the rotor code.

    One could assume it uses the codes/settings for a particular day during World War II (Birthday? June 23rd, Death date: June 7). Or maybe a day he made a particular breakthrough at Bletchley Park. Also I suppose his initials AMT would be a good rotor code.

    Also, presumably it’s in English, not German.

    The Random Hacks blog has given this some thought as well:




    But I think it’s virtually impossible to crack this as is. But I’m hoping some day the Internet proves me wrong!

    1. Wait for other memorials to turn up and hope that someone forgets to reset the rotor.

  2. Thanks to this post I went looking to see if there were any plans for the 100th anniversary of his birth next year and found this: http://www.turingcentenary.eu/ (incidentally, @sasa, according to their twitter feed they’ve been promised a doodle for next year)

  3. Killing a genius because his sexuality: Way to GO! *hangs head in shame* I can only hope that one day gays will get the true equal rights they deserve. Same goes for different races too. Since it is now just not on the books but people still commit it.

  4. Last year HiLobrow posted a Turing Test I wrote for Turing’s birthday, it’s still up if you want to try it. “Simply answer the questions and we will determine whether you think. We already know you’re artificial:”


    And yes 2012 is the official Alan Turing Year, would be a great time to visit Bletchley Park!

  5. It’s funny: the people of Manchester (where I live) basically killed him out of bigotry, then 50 years later their sons and daughters started celebrating him like crazy. Every advertising of the city now is something like “the birthplace of industrial revolution and of ALANTURINGFATHEROFCOMPUTERSCIENCEWHOBUILTTHEFIRSTSUPERCOMPUTERSINYEARetcetc and of The Smiths and Oasis”.

    Do you want fries, with your hypocrisy?

    1. “the people of Manchester (where I live) basically killed him out of bigotry”

      Toyg, I live in Manchester too and that is the most witless comment I’ve ever heard on the subject. The people of Manchester did NOT kill him. The effects of his arrest (based on a cruel and inhumane law) and the subsequent ignominy were what led to his death, not the fellow inhabitants of this city. Please avoid making such ludicrous and offensive statements.

      (It is an interesting fact, incidentally, that he was also denied entry to the United States after his conviction.)

      1. Well, they (and their representatives) certainly showed him very little sympathy after their law-enforcement agents arrested him; considering the “hard and unsympathetic atmosphere of Manchester engineering”, it wouldn’t be too surprising to learn such little sympathy pre-dated the arrest.

        Today things are different, the gay village is at the heart of the city in so many ways, but still it’s ludicrous to deny that there is a large element of collective responsibility for what happened to him in those years. He spent 6 years around Manchester, clearly the worst ones of his life; certainly it couldn’t all be down to a couple of coppers, could it ?

        1. Ah! You mean if he’d lived in Liverpool, Newcastle or London everything would have been alright?

          Sorry, I didn’t realise that anti-gay laws and attitudes only existed in Manchester. My sincere apologies.

  6. The play, Breaking the Code, at the theater next to the MIT campus played this spring. A nice tribute to turing.

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