Welcome to the tenth installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy new tech column. Not everything I cover will be queer per se, but it will be about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology.
Header by Rory Midhani
I thought we could take a little break from backing up to talk about Alan Turing.
Lately I’ve been hearing a lot a lot a lot about Alan Turing, who would have been 100 years old this year. As many of you pointed out, my pseudonym is Lana Turing in tribute. Because without Turing, none of us computer nerds would be as advanced as we are today. Alan Turing’s was already a brilliant mind when he was invited to Bletchley Park during World War II. Bletchley Park was an estate maintained for code breaking and was top secret. In fact, people were let go from their military or government jobs for being unable to give reasons for actions that came as direct orders from Bletchley Park. Not even other military and government agencies could know what was going on there.
Turing led the team that cracked Enigma, a Nazi machine that typed normal messages in code and then deciphered them on the other end, a machine that was thought to be unbreakable. Due to his work, the war ended quicker. He was never given full recognition as a war hero and despite his hard work he was convicted of homosexuality, then a crime, in 1952. Given the choice between prison and chemical castration, he chose the latter, which made him extremely unhappy in his body. He committed suicide via cyanide-laced apple in 1954. In May of this year, a bill was put before the House of Lords which, if passed, would retroactively pardon him. On December 18th, a group of scientists asked Parliament to posthumously pardon Alan Turing. And thus the multitude of Turing-related articles and podcasts I’ve been seeing lately, both for his hundredth birthday and for the argument surrounding his potential posthumous pardon. Here is a roundup of some of those things.
Radio Lab: The Turing Problem, March 19 2012
Alan Turing: Codebreaker, from Stuff You Missed In History Class in 2011, republished this year in conjunction with their code breaking two-parter.
Codes! Axis Cryptography in World War II, from Stuff You Missed in History Class, part one of the code breaking two-parter.
Alan Turing: Centenary Lectures, from Oxford.
I, Science: Alan Turing’s Centenary. This talks about the Turing test (a way to judge if a machine is “human”) and the podcaster’s conversation with Cleverbot.
Nature’s Podcast Extra: Alan Turing. I like this one because they talk to Alan Turing’s biographer, Andrew Hodges. He wrote Alan Turing: The Enigma.
Next week: Backing Up Your iOS Device.
Read a little about Alan Turing myself recently, is it true that Apple’s original logo (the rainbow coloured apple with a bite taken out of it) was a tribute to Turing, the apple being coloured that way to symbolise the cyanide lacing? Or just coincidence?
God I hope not, that’s a super depressing way to pick a company name.
Thanks for clearing that up. I always found it a little difficult to believe.
I like the way you teach us things!
I totally thought that your actual name was Lana Turing. And thought, really! Turing? That’s so cool!
i had (embarrassingly?) never heard about this human before, and i am now going to read everything i can find about him. thanks as always for teaching me new things, lana.
Thanks for this! Turing is pretty famous here in Manchester where he did a large part of his research at the university – in fact, the theme of this year’s Pride festival was “Queer’d Science” in his honour. There was an exhibition about him at the museum of science and industry (definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in
Manchester!). Interestingly, there’s some controversy about his death and whether it could have been an accident(e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18561092), although most historians agree it was probably suicide. Either way, a sad end to a genious life; it always strikes me how relatively recent this all was too. Thanks for this tribute :)
Yes! We actually did an AS meet up in Manchester in october, and there was a turing exhibit at the museum of science and industry where we sent a message about the AS meet through an enigma machine, it was awesome!
Yes, Alan Turing was the coolest, and his story really should be more widely known.
I had a math teacher in high school who would always dedicate a portion of each of his classes on the Day of Silence to talk about Alan Turing.
I didn’t know who Alan Turing was, but now I do! Thanks AS.
OMFG YOU MADE AN ACTUALPOST ABOUT ALAN TURING YOU ARE NOW MY FAVORITE PERSON!!!!!! My dad is a programmer and i grew up hearing about how awesome he was–but only found out he was hella gay in the last year.
Wow this guy sounds awesome. So sad that he killed himself :( I really want to read his biography.
Does anyone else think its ironic that computer science owes its existence to a gay guy when tech culture is highly sexist & homophobic?
I thought I recognised the picture.
Turns out we have a (rather unflattering) statue of him at my University. I always wondered… Feel a bit stupid I didn’t know before!
Awesome post :)
Lana, I’ve enjoyed your tech posts, and thanks for posting about Alan Turing! I definitely recommend Andrew Hodges’ biography of Turing, which was written in the early 80’s. He’s a mathematician and gay himself, so the biography does an excellent job of exploring both Turing’s work and his personal life.
You know what made your post different from all other Alan Turing tribute posts…?
The links that you shared… Thank you dear.
I owe you a kiss..
Let’s not forget who came up with the original idea in the chat! :D :D :D
Also/more importantly, this post was awesome, I love learning more about queer history and about Turing in particular! I did not know he was turning 100 this year. Happy (early? late?) birthday Alan Turing!
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Ah, and there is a movie coming out this November about him: The Imitation Game
‘about’ meaning loosely based off of his WWII storyline