Saturday, 16 March 2013

Turing's Cathedral - George Dyson

Concerned with the role played by Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study in the 'computing revolution', the players are introduced and their role in the developing computing is pieced together gradually. The main focus is on John Von Neumann and his role in a variety of computational fields, effect on the Institute, his life and the consideration of what coud have been if he hadn't died at a relative young age. If you are looking a lot of background on Alan Turing, this is not the book for you, Turing himself has a chapter. If though you are looking for the importance of Turing's work, then this book is for you,  this is one of the major themes running through the book.

For me there was a little too much background and family history of some of the main players, including a chapter on the site of the institute itself. 

There are some surprises (for me), the main one being the importance of Klara Von Neumann the second wife of John Von Neumann, as one of the first programmers/pioneers of the early computers.

This is a good book about the history and importance of computing, with some thoughts and even chapters on the concept of the Digital Universe and it's implications. If you are interesting in the history of computation this is book you will want to read.

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