Every time you fill in one of those web forms with their ‘anti-spam’ CAPTCHA code, you know – that fiddly combination of alpha numeric characters that’s usually so hard to read: you’re actually paying tribute to one of the UK’s great mathematicians and computer pioneers, Alan Turing (yes we know it would be easier to prounounce if he had an ‘n’ in his surname and was called Turning - but we are where we are). By the way, CAPTCHA is the acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing [test to tell] Computers [and] Humans Apart – so now you know.
Anyways, whilst Alan is long gone (died 1954 in somewhat ‘disputed’ circs) he is remembered around the parish for lots of different reasons: he was one of the Bletchley Park code breakers in the 1940s and later had a distinguished University career in Manchester. I knew of him a little through his CAPTCHA work but when I went to watch Man City -v- Newcastle Utd at Eastlands last season I found myself traversing the Alan Turing Way, just by the new stadium.
So I studied a little more about the man and his work: if you want to know more click on the banner advert above to visit that website or alternatively just Google him to find out lots more. Whilst there’s little doubt that WW2 was one of the most perilous periods in our recent history, when Turing’s mathematical genuis helped create the Enigma code breaker, I suspect that he would have been just as at home in the present WWW world, where the all pervasive Internet is driven by mathematical algorithms.
Don’t know if it’s fitting legacy or not (probably not) that his name just lives on in Manchester at the sporting environs of Eastlands Stadium and a memorial to him in the form of a bronze statue sitting on a bench in Sackville Park, Manchester – or alternatively in the ‘T’ of CAPTCHA, although obviously not enough people know about it: maybe the publicity fightback starts here, in this small contribution.