If Alan Turing were still alive, he would now be 100 years old (June 23rd 1912). Unfortunately he died in 1954, before he could really see the legacy of what he had created. I wonder what he would have thought given that he could now be blamed for sending the whole industry into a corner from which it seems to be incapable of escaping. Please don’t think I mean any disrespect to an incredible thinker, without who we may not have advanced as much as we have. But what he created, the simplification that enabled us to tame the whole sphere of computing in general has almost become the enigma of hardware design. I am talking about the notion of synchronous design.
It was in 1931 that he first described he simple hypothetical device known as the Turing machine which was a machine capable of performing the task of any other machine. This directly led Von Neumann to his concept of the computer as we know it today and both cemented the role of sequential logic as the way in which digital hardware was constructed.
Today, we all know the problems related to synchronous design including critical paths, clock distribution networks, the power and current spikes created by clocks and the power integrity issues that result from those clock edges.
We can but wonder if Turing may have been able to produce a general purpose machine that was untimed and saved us from the singular path that we have gone down. Will we ever escape the confines of the clock and truly get to asynchronous design?
As we talk about this, there is another side to Turing’s life. He came out as gay long before the world was willing to accept it. He was chemically castrated in order to avoid going to prison but within 2 years committed suicide. Two years ago he received an apology from the Prime Minister of Britain for the way he was treated and there is a Bill before Parliament to give him a full pardon. We can but wonder what else he may have accomplished if people had been more tolerant.Other What were they thinking articles:What were they thinking: Apple crazy?What were they thinking: relief for inebriated guys?What were they thinking: do you know your Rapunzel Number?Brian Bailey
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