For boys who like boys who like joysticks!

Archives:

« Nintendo Gains Co-Ownership Of Fatal Frame IP | Main | THQ Is Giving Away Free DLC And Shipping For Darksiders 2 »

Happy 100th Birthday, Alan Turing

Alan_Turing.jpg

Wait, what? Why are we fĂȘte-ing an intelligence specialist from World War II? What does he have to do with video games?

It's pretty simple, actually: For those who don't know, Alan Turing is pretty much the grandfather of computers and artificial intelligence, and he was queer.

It's hard to say what the prodigious genius is best known for: There's the Turing Machine, one of the precursors of modern computing that is still used by theorists today, the Turing Test of artificial intelligence, the Bombe, which helped Allied forces decrypt German communications, there's his eccentric behaviour, and, increasingly, he's also been famous for his tragic death.

Born in London in 1912, young Alan Turing was a math prodigy, quickly finding his way through universities on both sides of the Atlantic. Just before the dawn of World War II, and after already helping lay the foundations of the theory of computation, the then-26 year-old Turing took a position with the British government to help decrypt German communications that had been encrypted using the infamous Enigma machine. Indeed, Winston Churchill famously said that the intelligence gleaned from decrypting those communications was what won the Allies the war.

After 1945, Turing continued laying the groundwork for modern computers and artificial intelligence, including the Turing test. In fact, those CAPTCHA forms you fill out are just Turing tests to ensure that you're not a malicious program. (FYI: "CAPTCHA" stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart.")

Lamentably, Turing died at the age of 41. After disclosing to the police that he'd had a sexual relationship with a young man whom he suspected of robbing him, Turing was convicted of "gross indecency" under section 11 of Britain's Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 - the same Act that imprisoned Oscar Wilde - which essentially criminalized any same-sex sexual interaction. Given the choice between imprisonment and "organo-therapy" (chemical castration), Turing chose the "therapy." In June of 1954, he was found dead of cyanide poisoning, which is widely-believed to have been self-inflicted.

Since his death, Turing's contribution to computing has not been forgotten, nor has his contribution to the war effort. Indeed, today, in commemoration of his 100th birthday, you can hop on over to Google and play around with a simulated Turing machine, and in 2009 then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized to Mr. Turing for the law's outrageous treatment of a man who was instrumental in saving the United Kingdom from Nazi occupation. Fittingly, it was a petition on-line, stored by a computer, signed by thousands of people using computers, that led to the apology. A further petition, to date signed by nearly 35 000 people, demands a full pardon, which the government has thus far refused to give.

So today we tip our hats to a man who (nevermind that small matter of, you know, saving the world from the freaking Nazis) helped create computing - a man who was instrumental in laying the groundwork for every single video game that's ever been.

3 Comments

faePuck said:

Thanks for pointing this out! I actually learned some about Mr. Turing that I (shamefully) didn't already know. It's bizarre that his name hasn't received a full pardon from the UK.

But, hey, at least they're not Queensland, Australia.

Daniel K said:

Thanks for the great write-up on Turing. I remember learning how to program in Turing in grade 10 Intro to Computers. Years later, while talking to my gay New Zealand friend who's a programmer, I found out that he was queer, and about his awful treatment. It's quite astounding, how this man could have saved the UK and the world from the Nazis, and yet, here was what they did to him. Still shocking after all these years.

Limeade said:

I have a lot of respect for Turning and his contributions from computer-y to war effort aid. It's horrific how he was treated, regardless of the times and law. Chemical castration is just awful in this scenario.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

Twitter Feed

Recent Comments

Limeade on Happy 100th Birthday, Alan Turing: I have a lot of respect for Turning and his contributions from computer-y to war effort aid. It's horrific how...

Daniel K on Happy 100th Birthday, Alan Turing: Thanks for the great write-up on Turing. I remember learning how to program in Turing in grade 10 Intro to...

faePuck on Happy 100th Birthday, Alan Turing: Thanks for pointing this out! I actually learned some about Mr. Turing that I (shamefully) didn't already know. It's bizarre...

GGP Mailing List

Are you gay and working in the games industry? If you are interested in networking with other folks like you within the industry, try joining the Gay Game-Industry Professionals mailing list. Click here for all the details!

Links

The GayGamer Store

  • Help support GayGamer by purchasing your items through our store!

All rights reserved © 2006-2010 FAD Media, Inc.