History of the Turing Machine

In this post, I will be writing specifically regarding the history of the Turing Machine. Although many acknowledge Turing’s contribution in World War II, they often times fail to recognize Turing’s contributions in computer science. Although the word Turing Machine might ring a bell for some, I would like to clearly define the definition of the Turing Machine before getting into its history.
The definition of the Turing Machines, according to “Introduction to Algorithms” course in Cornell, are an abstract model of computation. According to the course, the Turing Machines have four key features:
“1. A finite amount of internal state.
2. An infinite amount of external data storage.
3. A program specified by a finite number of instructions in a predefined language.
4. Self-reference: the programming language is expressive enough to write an interpreter for
its own programs.”
Now that we have an idea of what the Turing Machines are, let’s get into their history. Alan Turing first came up with an idea of a computer in 1936 at Cambridge University. “He described an abstract digital computing machine consisting of a limitless memory and a scanner that moves back and forth through the memory, symbol by symbol, reading what it finds and writing further symbols.” This abstract machine became known as the first Universal Turing Machine, a kind of Turing Machine that can simulate other Turing Machines. Turing also added that he wanted a machine that would be able to alter itself as it operated on. The invention of the Turing Machine is of great significance, since this is what led to the invention of modern computers.
1.The Modern History of Computing. First published Mon Dec 18, 2000; substantive revision Fri Jun 9, 2006 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/computing-history/#UTM
2. Introduction to Algorithms http://www.cs.cornell.edu/courses/cs4820/2012su/handouts/turingm.pdf


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