Vint Cerf on Alan Turing's legacy

The BBC is celebrating the Turing centenary with a series of commissioned essays on the importance of Alan Turing and his work, kicking off with today's essay by Vint Cerf, co-creator of the Internet and Google's "Chief internet evangelist." Cerf has been awarded the Turing prize by the ACM.

Turing's legacy continues to evolve, astonish, challenge and excite. His insights and fearless approach to daunting problems set benchmarks for decades to come.

His clarity of thought and creative genius infused those with whom he worked. His conceptual notions, such as the Universal Turing Machine, provided the basis for serious analysis of computability and decidability.

His practical realisations of computing engines, special systems like the bombe and general purpose ones such as Ace, shed bright light on the feasibility of purposeful computing and lit the way towards the computing rich environment we find in the 21st century.

Had he lived to see 2012, one wonders what his thoughts might be and what new ideas he would challenge us to think about.

As my own journey into computing and networking continues to unfold, I find myself wondering and wishing that Turing were still around to consult.

Alan Turing: why the tech world's hero should be a household name

(Image: Vint Cerf, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from joi's photostream)


  1. Shared this post.  I wish I could tattoo Turing’s name on my forehead. I have Asperger’s syndrome and it’s so painfully obvious that Alan Turing had a lot of Asperger syndrome traits including the ability to speak without fear of censure, the incredibly bright mind that leaps to unimaginable conclusions, a free thinker, a free spirit.  Truly a wonderful person that the world so dearly lost. What would he have become you can only wonder and wish and mourn.  An amazing man, an amazing legacy and a world that will always be better for his genius. A true hero.

  2. ‘Have you heard of the Turing test, Mr Atom – to determine if someone is a real human being?’‘No, I haven’t.’‘If they try and convict you for no crime, chemically castrate you and drive you to suicide despite your being instrumental in winning their war, they’re human.’-  Novahead

  3. i’m sure ADA would have liked the company of Turing, <–this was posted by a 'replicant' heh not but wouldnt that have been funny

  4. Ours is a sorry and sick species. The guy develops theory of computing, plays a big role in winning the war, suffers because he is gay, eventually is broken to the point of suicide. 60 years later our society and culture rely on his work and legacy, and faggot/gay is probably the most used insult in the Internet. We still have a lot of the hate that sent him to the great, while using what he gave us.


  5. How ironic and horrific is it that Turing and Oscar Wilde were prosecuted under the same seldom-used statute? Two of the smartest and most successful products of The Empire whose accomplishments were ignored in favor of punishing them for their quite common sexual habits. Kind of like jailing Einstein for littering.

  6. The great Turing’s horrible ending should be understood in the context of those who always seem to have the upper hand, the power of over us all!

    No one should ever have the right to do what was done to Mr. Turing, no one!

    In regard to Vint Cerf, it is pertinent to note what occurred to the leader of the administration who was responsible for Vint Cerf’s funding, the creation of the Internet, as well as the single greatest R&D project in American history, NASA and the moon project:  the Kennedy Administration.  (With the appointment of JCR Licklider, the Kennedy administration picked the perfect individual to direct ARPA funding at the Pentagon, and he directed those funds at the right group of people:  Vint Cerf, Paul Baran, Jon Postel, et al.  And the many, many technological innovations which came out of NASA, merged together to aid and abet the eventual creation of the Web by Berners-Lee and company.)

    The whitewash of his horrible murder, by those in power was really not all that dissimilar than Mr. Turing’s murder, albeit much quicker.

    People who think humanistically and radically will always be in their sights.

    Beware the super-rich who move so stealthilty among us.

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