- George Dyson: How Turings Cathedral Was Built | Re-Envision | Big Think.
What’s the Big Idea?
“It is impossible to predict where the digital universe is going,” writes technology historian George Dyson in the preface to his new book Turing’s Cathedral, “but it id possible to understand how it began.” It is from that contention that Dyson sets out to tell the origin story of the digital universe, which he locates in “the physical realization of Alan Turing’s Universal Machine, a theoretical construct invented in 1936.”
That physical realization came in 1945, when a group of a dozen engineers led by a mathematician named John von Neumann designed and built an electronic digital computer in less than five years for under one million dollars.
As Dyson observes, this machine “broke the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things. Our universe would never be the same.” So how did these engineers do it and what lessons can be drawn from their story that can be applied to our digital future?