Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film The Imitation Game (英語) ペーパーバック – 2014/11/19
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The official book behind the film, The Imitation Game, this is a dramatic portrayal of the life and work of Alan Turing, one of Britain's most extraordinary unsung heroes, and one of the world's greatest innovators.
This is the official story that has inspired the British film, The Imitation Game, a nail-biting race against time following Alan Turing, the pioneer of modern-day computing and credited with cracking the German Enigma code, and his brilliant team at Britain's top-secret code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. Turing, whose contributions and genius significantly shortened the war, saving thousands of lives, was the eventual victim of an unenlightened British establishment, but his work and legacy live on.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown released a statement of apology in 2009 on behalf of the British government for the "appalling" treatment of Turing.
• "Turing's rehabilitation from over a quarter-century's embarrassed silence was largely the result of Andrew Hodges's superb biography, Alan Turing: The enigma (1983; reissued with a new introduction in 2012). Hodges examined available primary sources and interviewed surviving witnesses to elucidate Turing's multiple dimensions. A mathematician, Hodges ably explained Turing's intellectual accomplishments with insight, and situated them within their wider historical contexts. He also empathetically explored the centrality of Turing's sexual identity to his thought and life in a persuasive rather than reductive way..." --Times Literary Supplement
• "On the face of it, a richly detailed 500-page biography of a mathematical genius and analysis of his ideas, might seem a daunting proposition. But fellow mathematician and author Hodges has acutely clear and often extremely moving insight into the humanity behind the leaping genius that helped to crack the Germans' Enigma codes during World War II and bring about the dawn of the computer age..." --Wall Street Journal
Now, having said that, I DO think as most of the other 640 commentators have stated, (exactly 67.84% of total commentators, to be precise) that the weight of the text is in many ways too taken up with all this simplistic math and science. We really do NOT get a full picture of Alan Turing or his life. Apparently there is a LOT Mr. Hodges left out, (and not ONLY Sweden) that would be more appropriate to the telling of an regular biography of a real person. We do not see many of Alan Turing's warts and we spend far too little time with HIM and HIS life, in favor of a more chemical rendition, dealing as much with the history of computers (shame on you, Gates and Jobs for pretending YOU discovered things!) as it is with a history of Mr. Turning's life. If we learned anything from the movie (need I mention the name of it?) it is that Hollywood can take merely a few essential facts and run away with reality, but AH WELL to all that, for that is Hollywood and it's twisted version of the truth at least got all of us interested in the REAL Alan Turing, didn't it?
Thus it is a very very bad SHAME when more than half the book is given over, not to biography, but to computer history. We never truly sense any continuity in the story of Alan Turing. We don't know all the things he was engaged in or what so many other things he did. Mostly, his life is expressed in a few pages of real biography at a rationed time. We hear where he's moved, what lectures he gives, what papers he writes. He never COMES ALIVE. Oddly, that is what Turing might have argued on behalf of his early computer dreams.....that, deep down, "Number 5 is ALIVE!". But the sad part is that if his invention is truly alive, Mr. Hodges represents Alan Turing as a dummy terminal. Lifeless on it's own. This wasn't the real man represented here but remember, this IS a "scientific biography" (read the back cover) and so perhaps Mr. Hodges DID meet his goals; he expressed the life of Alan Turing as a mathematical function dependent on the variable of computer science.
The real fascination of Turing's career (for most of the reading public) is his work on calculating machines to aid in the decrypting messages from the German Enigma machine used to encode their naval communications, most particularly with their submarines. The particular contribution of Turing was the design of the electro- mechanical device called the “bombe” (an anglicization of the polish “bomba”, for a prior device for a similar purpose developed in Poland based on even earlier work in France in the late 1930's, at a time when both these countries seemed more sensitive to the need for decoding German military communications than was England). Turing's bombe was an electro-mechanical device that efficiently replicated the action of several Enigma machines wired together. As used by the Germans, the rotors of the Enigma (which provided the random encryption) were reset each day. The challenge for the British was to twiddle the rotors in the array of bombe's until they got some rational looking text from an attempted decryption of the intercepted German messages. Most of the enormous number of possible rotor settings were generally reduced by screening out those that did not produce any of a frequently used set of terms (called “cribs”) anywhere in the message. Once a promising setting was determined, all the rest of the messages for that day could be decoded. The book provides extensive details of bombe operations and how they were applied.
The book describes the roles of many individuals as the bombes were improved and their numbers expanded to operate at several sites in England (as a precaution against arial bombardment of a single site). While the book gives Turing the most important role in this process, it is nowhere near the “but for” importance implied in the movie “The Imitation Game”, which is loosely based on this book. The book describes several of Turing's unique contributions including his famous letter to Churchill, dated October 21, 1941, as an eminent scientist pleading for more funds to accelerate the Bletchley Park effort, Churchill's positive response may have made a significant difference in anti-submarine warfare at that time. Another unique contribution was Turing's visit to the United States from November 1942- March 1943, with his offering very perceptive guidance on the US bombe construction program (which eventually surpassed the British in numbers and speed of computation).
Nearly half of the last 100 pages of the book is devoted to Turing's affair with Arnold Murray and his subsequent prosecution for it. The author reveals that he (Hodges) is also a homosexual, as if to prepare the reader for some insight on the matter. I would have appreciated some explanation of the fact that, although Turing had a number of sexual relations with men of his own age, class and intellectual attainments (described fleetingly in the prior narrative), he suddenly chose a working class man, less than half his age, with only modest intellectual yearnings and no accomplishments. [My own interpretation is that he wanted, consciously or subconsciously, to be a martyr and brought the whole thing on himself by going to the police to report a minor burglary connected to the affair.] As for the larger social significance of the situation, Hodges tries to build a case that Turing was especially prosecuted because it was perceived that his uncontrollability made him a serious security threat. This argument is not very convincing since Turing had done no security work for at least 5 years previous and had no prospect of doing any in the future. Furthermore, there is no evidence of any involvement by high government officials, only a few local police and prosecutors.
I would advise skipping the rather lengthy introduction (31 pages) until after you've read the book; it doesn't introduce the subject, but does give some interesting tidbits of discoveries and re-interpretations since Turing's death. This subject is also treated in the Author's note at the end of the book.
Watch the movie instead, unless your are a nuclear genius. But I will pick it up again, because I do not want a book to defeat me unless it purely stinks, which I do not think this book does. It is just so deep in the theory and math.
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