Larger than life characters in the computer world

Discussion in 'General Mac Discussion' started by billyboy, May 26, 2003.

  1. billyboy macrumors 65816

    billyboy

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    #1
    Computer nerds abound, but how many characters are there, or have there been in the game? Here's one.

    http://www.time.com/time/time100/scientist/profile/turing.html

    Turing came up with the idea of Artificial Intellgence when Spielberg was but a pup. To boot, he developed a "machine" that in theory could adapt to literally any task given it.

    Amongst other things - philosopher, mathematician- he was also a master code breaker. Unfortunately he killed himself with a cyanide-riddled apple aged 41 - the final straw was the side effects of an injection of lust-curbing female hormones, his punishment for gross indecency in the days when homosexuality was illegal in Britain.

    So ended the life of a man very much ahead of his time.

    Any more alive or dead personalities whose achievements or antics just make you go wow, like Turing - or like that MS CEO make you glad they're not part of your family?
     
  2. Schiffi macrumors 6502a

    Schiffi

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    #2
    I'm mentioning Charles Babbage. He came up with the whole definition of a computer back in the late 1800s. Google him.
     
  3. wsteineker macrumors 6502a

    wsteineker

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    #3
    Richard Stallman, last of the AI geeks. He was on the tail end of a long and illustrious line of big thinkers whom we've all heard of (Marvin Minsky, Richard Greenblat, etc) at the MIT AI lab. He created GNU because he thought Unux should be free, and in doing so brought the concept of Open Source software (previously just an ivory tower notion at major universities like MIT and Stanford) to the masses. He's not as well known as Torvalds, but he's so much more important. Google him or read about him in Stephen Levy's marvelous Hackers. Quite an odd man.
     
  4. beatle888 macrumors 68000

    beatle888

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    #4
    homer simpson, it was because of guys like him that the mouse was invented.
     
  5. mim macrumors 6502

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    #5
    Babbage for sure. And his lovely assistant too (I can't remember her name...). Offically Babbage is given the credit for inventing the machine, but some records indicate his assistant may have actually realised the true power of a machine that could be "reconfigured" to solve any problem, and that she may have written much of the original "code" for the engine too.

    I've been lucky enough to see the restored Difference Engine at the Science Museum in London - in action it is the most increadible and fantastic thing you've ever seen. All the banks of cogs and gears whirring away....

    I've also been to Bletchley Park, and seen the partial restoration of the computer there (I don't think it's Colossus...one of the later variants I think). Although Turing is known as the inventor of the computer in popular legend, there was actually a number of important figures at Bletchley who were instrumental in designing and engineering the first computers. It's a fantastic place, but unfortunatley quite neglected and very poorly funded. I'll dig into my archives and write a bit on the people who worked there, if anyone's that keen.

    Jonathan Ive is also a fav of mine (industrial design for Apple). They have a section on him at the Design Museum www.designmuseum.org - also in London (the site uses a pop-up window for navigation - just a warning to those who have them blocked). He's a true living legend.
     
  6. Sol macrumors 68000

    Sol

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    #6
    Inventor of The Mechanical Turk

    Wolfgang von Kempelen, an engineer from Vienna who created the world's first chess playing automation in 1770. Although the exact nature of the device was always shrouded in mystery, The Mechanical Turk (as it is referred today) inspired in part the work of Charles Babbage (who created the Difference Engine). With his chess playing automation Kempelen pioneered one of the most important parts of modern computing: the user interface.
     
  7. mim macrumors 6502

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    #7
    Re: Inventor of The Mechanical Turk

    This was a fake - though hydraulics may have been used to operate some parts of the automation, these could have also been just for show.

    The really exciting thing about the Turk, is that over the 80 years of so it existed, the owners (and there were a number of them) managed to keep finding chess grandmasters to run it (the Turk rarely lost, and often gave a head start to people).

    So, Sol...what exactly do you mean by interface?
     
  8. Sol macrumors 68000

    Sol

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    #8
    The Turk User Interface

    Well the form of The Turk was one that anyone could understand. It communicated with its hands (for making moves), head (to give the impression that it was looking) and (following a mod) its voice (to say "check-mate"). When people played against it they used a real-world interface which was the chess-board with their opponent opposite them. In this way I think Kempelen made the user interface a more important part of the experience for the user than the supposed machine that made it all possible.
     
  9. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

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    #9
    Donald A. Knuth did some of the most important academic work in the field of computer science. His multi-volume The Art of Computer Programming has a place of honor on my bookshelf.

    Edgar F. Codd invented the relational database model. He died this year (April 18, 2003).
     
  10. mim macrumors 6502

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    #10
    Re: The Turk User Interface

    That is the best description of 'interface' that I think I've ever heard :)
     
  11. billyboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    billyboy

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    #11
    I quoted Turing because a mate of mine studied computer science and came back one day saying that with the processing power of a calculator, a Turing type computer could outperform any conventional computer that is out or likely to come out on the market for years to come.

    If that is so, why doesnt some little independent company work out something on those lines? Jobs could just hide it away inside my Powerbook call it a new plug-in for OSX and away we go!
     
  12. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

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    #12
    I think you misunderstood what your friend was explaining to you. A Turing Machine, which is a state machine with an infinite tape for input and output and storage, can perform any calculation that any computer can perform, but it doesn't outperform it in the sense of being faster. In fact, it's quite the opposite. A basic (single-tape deterministic) Turing machine would be painfully slow. For example, it would find the square of the number 12345678 by adding 12345678 to an initially-zero counter 12345678 times. Turing machines were a "thought invention", not something you'd actually build for any practical purpose. You can make a Turing machine slightly less inefficient by using multiple tapes, but it becomes no more powerful in capabilities. Studying them and proving that kind of fact is what some of us geeky types consider fun and interesting.
     
  13. Wes macrumors 68020

    Wes

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    #13
    Lovelace?
     
  14. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

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    #14
    Ada Lovelace, after whom the Ada programming language was named. Here's a complicated Ada program to ponder:

    with Text_IO ;
    procedure Hello is
    begin
    Text_IO.Put_Line("Hello, world") ;
    end Hello ;

    Of course, Ada Lovelace never used the programming language. She missed it by over a hundred years!
     

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