[SIGCIS-Members] Washington Post article about Turing

PeterEckstein at comcast.net PeterEckstein at comcast.net
Tue Feb 24 17:44:26 PST 2015

I consider this interview and the article to be nothing more than PR puffery on the part of Princeton. Isaacson is quoted as saying that Turing did not invent the automatic electronic digital computer, but somehow the article goes on to give as much glory as possible to Princeton but never mention the names of those Isaacson said were the real inventors--John Mauchly and Presper Eckert. They built ENIAC before there was any clear technology in which to store a program, and, after  the ENIAC design was frozen, they and several others at Penn set out to develop the architecture of a next-generation stored-program computer that they named EDVAC. At some point von Neumann, who had never seen a computer before, joined the group and contributed to its thinking, and he volunteered to write up their conclusions, which were issued in a typed (and widely distributed) paper that bore his name alone. Von Neumann was, as I believe the article calls him, a protean genius, but attributing the stored-program concept to him is, indeed, an example of the Matthew Effect gone wild. 

----- Original Message -----

From: "John Impagliazzo" <John.Impagliazzo at Hofstra.edu> 
To: "Paul Ceruzzi" <CeruzziP at si.edu>, "sigcis" <members at sigcis.org> 
Sent: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 2:02:42 AM 
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Washington Post article about Turing 

Thanks, Paul. 


Below is the link to the article for those who do not have access to it. 





John Impagliazzo , Ph.D. 

Professor Emeritus, Hofstra University 

IEEE Life Fellow 

ACM Distinguished Educator 

Editor-in-Chief, ACM Inroads 


From: members-bounces at sigcis.org [mailto:members-bounces at sigcis.org] On Behalf Of Ceruzzi, Paul 
Sent: Saturday, 21 February, 2015 08:47 
To: sigcis 
Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] Washington Post article about Turing 



On the front page of today's Washington Post is an article by Joel Achenbach about Turing's 1936 paper and its influence on computer science. All well and good, except later on he quotes the Chair of the Computer Science Department at Princeton as saying "...Turing invented computer science and John von Neumann built the first stored-program computer." An example of The Matthew Effect ("them that's got shall have; them that's not shall lose").  


Overall, Achenbach has written an very good summary of Turing's contributions. He also gets one thing right (unless I am mistaken): we really don't know to what extent von Neumann and Turing discussed these concepts when both were at Princeton.  

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