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

Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Three quarters of a century ago a small number of men and women gathered in Princeton, New Jersey. Under the direction of John von Neumann they were to begin building one of the world’s first computers driven by the vison that Alan Turing had of a Universal machine. Using cutting edge technology, valves and vacuum tubes to store the data, the first computer was born. This unit took 19.5kW to work and had a memory size of five, yes five kilobytes. It caused a number of revolutions, it was this machine that laid the foundations for every single computing device that exists on the planet today, it changed the way that we think about numbers and what they could do for us and the calculations that it ran gave us the hydrogen bomb…

I had picked this up mostly because of the title, Turing’s Cathedral, thinking that it would be about that great man, the way that he thought and the legacy that he left us with regards to computing and cryptography. There was some of the on Turing and his collaboration with the American computer scientists and engineers through the war, but the main focus was on the development of the computer in America and the characters that were involved in the foundation of today’s technological society. Some parts were fascinating, but it could be quite tedious at times. There were lots and lots of detail in the book, the characters and political games that they were playing and subject to, not completely sure why we needed to go so far back in time on the origins of Princeton. Definitely one for the computer geek, not for the general reader.

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  1. DoingDewey

    I'm sorry to hear this wasn't more exciting, because the topic sounds fascinating. It does seem strange it wasn't more about Turing!

  2. Paul Cheney

    It was worth reading, but it needs a new title

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