Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe

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Pantheon Books, 2012 - Science - 401 pages
18 Reviews

“It is possible to invent a single machine which can be used to compute any computable sequence,” twenty-four-year-old Alan Turing announced in 1936. In Turing's Cathedral, George Dyson focuses on a small group of men and women, led by John von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who built one of the first computers to realize Alan Turing's vision of a Universal Machine. Their work would break the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things—and our universe would never be the same.

Using five kilobytes of memory (the amount allocated to displaying the cursor on a computer desktop of today), they achieved unprecedented success in both weather prediction and nuclear weapons design, while tackling, in their spare time, problems ranging from the evolution of viruses to the evolution of stars.

Dyson's account, both historic and prophetic, sheds important new light on how the digital universe exploded in the aftermath of World War II. The proliferation of both codes and machines was paralleled by two historic developments: the decoding of self-replicating sequences in biology and the invention of the hydrogen bomb. It's no coincidence that the most destructive and the most constructive of human inventions appeared at exactly the same time.

How did code take over the world? In retracing how Alan Turing's one-dimensional model became John von Neumann's two-dimensional implementation, Turing's Cathedral offers a series of provocative suggestions as to where the digital universe, now fully three-dimensional, may be heading next.

  

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Review: Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe

User Review  - Folkert Wierda - Goodreads

At first I tended to agree with the quickly glanced comments that it is a badly written story about an amazing epoch. As I progressed this changed. Firstly the book is loaded with gems, real life ... Read full review

Review: Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe

User Review  - Brian Sletten - Goodreads

The history of the development of modern computers is fascinating. The combination of academic research, financing, world events and more aligned inexplicably at a specific time and place that changed ... Read full review

Contents

I953
11
Veblens Circle
19
Neumannjénos
40
MANIAC
64
Fuld 219
88
6_I6
109
V40
131
Cyclogenesis
154
Monte C3110
175
Barricel1is Universe
225
Turings Cathedral
243
Engineefs Dreams
266
Key to Archival Sources
339
339
379
Copyright

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About the author (2012)

George Dyson is a historian of technology whose interests include the development (and redevelopment) of the Aleut kayak (Baidarka), the evolution of digital computing and telecommunications (Darwin Among the Machines), and the exploration of space (Project Orion).

Bibliographic information