The Fellowship

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

My shortest path (DOF) connection to the father of modern computer science

On wednesday, Sept 28th, 2005, I met Jim, mentor to my uncle, and a close friend of my uncle's family. It was my first meeting with him and i was very reluctant because i've never had anything in common with anyone 75+ years old... 60 minutes into the luncheon, i was thinking to myself that this is who i wanted to be 40 years from now... a living encyclopedia...

Gardening, astronomy and ham radio are his passions... I've always wanted to pay my tribute to Hertz and Marconi by joining a ham club but have never been able to do so... I've always wanted to put a telescope together, but Jim not only puts them together, he grinds his own mirror for the telescope... and so matter of factly says... i can't compete with the precision of modern technology but my mirrors work... !!! In the name of passion, I did courses in optical system design and thought to myself, someday perhaps I'll have the time and focus to make my own instruments... Jim didn't have that advantage... but he made it happen...

Jim was in the navy, and during the second world war is what i gather... He has a degree in chemical engineering, but chose to shift further study to chemistry... he's supposed to be a genius in identifying patterns for making drugs, and works one day a week... the rest of the time, he keeps himself busy with his 3 favorite hobbies and reads voraciously. I'm so glad i got to meet him because not many people can humble you with just their sheer depth of knowledge... He sure has become one of my icons.

Me: So, did u take a liking to the radio when you were in navy ?
Jim: It was vice versa actually... I chose navy coz i liked to play with the radio...

Jim: So, I hear you are an electrical engineer.
Me: That's right i am.
Jim: Do u work on computers ? Thats what the guys i know do.
Me: No, i work on Radars. (I beamed)

and then he started talking about a whole lot of stuff on radars which even i didnt know and he was telling me how they functioned and how they were mount during his time at the navy... It was my turn to clarify that i didnt work on Radars but actually worked on signals from radars... He didnt seem too impressed though that my radars were actually satellites in space...

Jim: Do u know Alan Turning ?
Me: Never heard of him.
Jim: He invented the enigma machine and the bombe...
Me: I've heard about them. Played a big role in WW2. Instrumental in destroying many German submarines.
Jim: Yup, that's right. I visited his place in London.

Later that evening, Jim sends me stuff to read on the bombe, the enigma machine and the story of Alan Mathison Turning... He searched the web and printed stuff which he thought would be relevant to my field of work!!!

Alan Mathison Turning was conceived in 1911 in Chatarpur, India. His parents wanted to bring him up in Britain, and so they moved. Mathison was a well known mathematician, logician and cryptographer. He is considered to be the father of modern computer science. The Turning test contributed towards the concept of artificial consciousness. He designed the bombe, an electromechanical machine which could find settings for the enigma machine. After the war, he worked at NPL, creating one of the first designs for a stored program computer, although it was never actually built. In 1952, Turning was convicted of acts of gross indecency because of his homosexuality. In 1954, he comitted suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide.