- Gebundene Ausgabe: 432 Seiten
- Verlag: Allen Lane; Auflage: 1st Edition (1. März 2012)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0713997508
- ISBN-13: 978-0713997507
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 16,2 x 3,9 x 24 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 1 Kundenrezension
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 506.789 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 1. März 2012
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A wise and meticulously researched account of a vital period in our technological history, peopled by remarkable characters painted in the round (Peter Forbes Independent )
Fascinating . . . the story Dyson tells is intensely human, a tale of teamwork over many years and all the harmonies and rows that involves (Jenny Uglow )
This wide-ranging and lyrical work is an important addition to the literature of the history of computing (Economist )
A beautiful example of technological storytelling . . . much more than a chronicle of engineering progress: it includes fascinating digressions into the history and physics of nuclear weapons, the fundamentals of mathematical logic, the mathematical insights of Hobbes and Leibniz, the history of weather forecasting, Nils Barricelli's pioneering work on artificial life and lots of other interesting stuff (John Naughton Observer )
It is a joy to read George Dyson's revelation of the very human story of the invention of the electronic computer, which he tells with wit, authority, and insight. Read Turing's Cathedral as both the origin story of our digital universe and as a preceptive glimpse into its future (W. Daniel Hillis )
At long last George Dyson delivers the untold story of software's creation. It is an amazing tale brilliantly deciphered (Kevin Kelly )
The world he re-creates will enthral scientific romantics . . . an entertaining starting point for anyone wanting to understand how Turing's astonishing ideas became a reality, and how they continue to shape the world we live in today (The Sunday Times )
An engrossing and well-researched book that recounts an important chapter in the history of 20th-century computing (Evgeny Morozov Observer )
Rich in historical insight . . . a timely reminder of why we should care about computers and the endless possibilities they hold (The Times )
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
George Dyson is a historian of technology whose interests include the development (and redevelopment) of the Aleut kayak. He is the author of Baidarka; Project Orion; and Darwin Among the Machines.Alle Produktbeschreibungen
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I did not dislike the book, so I give it three-stars, but only recommend it with the reservation that a perspective reader consider my reasons, given below, for why I did not rate it higher. While this book might not be for a general audience, I could recommend it to someone who wants more information on the Institute for Advanced Studies, IAS, the people who worked there and want information specifically about John von Neumann’s computer efforts.
In more detail - I found the book to have the following less than desirable features:
- The book is overstuffed – The author’s father worked at the IAS and he grew up there. As a result he was fascinated by everything to do with Princeton, IAS and the people who worked there. For instance, the book discusses - the Native American tribe who lived in the land occupied by Princeton University and IAS, William Penn and the founding of Pennsylvania, the design and construction of the IAS buildings and even a discussion of the woman who was the personal assistant to the director of IAS. I was hoping for a book, which had more about computers and less about this background material. Unfortunately, I estimate that this background material takes up about half of the book!
- The book is disorganized – I feel that the numerous digressions, described above, distracted from the story of computers. While at first I even enjoyed them, after a while I found that they caused me to loose the train of the narrative. Furthermore, chapters covering things like weather forecasting are thrown in-between those on the building of the computers, further disrupting the narrative concerning computer design and construction. I feel that the book is more of a collection of essays than a chronological story. These essays shift from building computers in the 1950’s, to Europe in the 1930’s, and then back to the 50’s, then to Los Alamos in the 1940’s and back again to the computers of the 50’s, and I feel that this tended to defocus the narrative.
- The writing style – I found the writing style to be somewhat cumbersome, especially when discussing the finer points of the design and construction of computers. In many cases the author quotes mathematicians or computer experts concerning their work, and while this produces text that is readily understandable to people conversant with these fields, I found it to be less than perfectly clear. In contrast, most of the best writers of popular science have a knack of describing complex work in a readily understandable form, but which I all too often found lacking in this book. I would have been much happier if the book was clearer on the details of the evolution of computer design, rather than on the design of the buildings in which they were designed and built.
- The book is misrepresented – The title of the book implies that it is about Alan Turing and computers, but Alan Turing is only a minor character. The subtitle “The Origins of the Digital Universe” implies that the book covers the origin of computer in general. As has been noted, while Turing and computers in general are discussed they are not the focus of the book. A more accurate title might have been “von Neumann’s Computer”, but I guess that the publisher, who generally decides on the title, felt that this title would not sell as well as the one he chose (especially since the year the book was published was the 100th anniversary of Turing’s birth).
While I learned something’s about John von Neumann, the computers that he worked on, and some important problems that these computers were put to work solving, the most important things that I learned were that I would like read a full von Neumann biography and a book that covers all of the different efforts that have led to the “digital universe”. This book only whetted my appetite to learn more about these subjects.
Turing and von Neumann make their appearances here, of course, along with Mauchley, Eckert, Oppenheimer, Ulam, Freeman Dyson (the authors' father), and other notables of the era. But Dyson also tells the story of a number of pioneers and contributors to the design, construction, and most of all the theory of computation, who have been overlooked by history. Most remarkable, perhaps, is Nils Barricelli, who could justifiably be called the founder of computational biology. Working in the early 1950s with a computer having less computational power and memory than a modern day sewing machine, he created a one-dimensional, artificial,universe in order to explore the relative power of mutation and symbiosis is the evolution of organisms. His work led to a number of original discoveries and conclusions that would only be rediscovered or proposed decades later, such as the notion that genes originated as independent organism, like viruses, that combined to create more complex organisms.
There's an entire chapter on a vacuum tube, the lowly 6J6, a dual triode created during the war that combined several elements necessary for the creation of a large scale computer: Simplicity, ruggedness, and economy. It fulfilled one of von Neumann's guiding principals for ENIAC: Don't invent anything. That is, don't waste time inventing where solutions already exist. By the nature of its relative unreliability and wide production tolerances relative to project goals, it also helped stimulate a critical line of research, that of how to created reliable systems from unreliable components- something more important now than ever in this era of microprocessors and memory chips with millions and even billions of components on a chip.
The chapter on Alan Turing is particularly good, covering as it does much of his work that has been neglected in biographies and presenting a much more accurate description of his work and his contributions to computational science. The great importance of his conceptual computer- the "Turing Machine"- is not, as is commonly stated in popular works, that it can perform the work of any other computer. It is that it demonstrated how any possible computing machine can be represented as a number, and vice versa. This allowed him to construct a proof that there exist uncomputable strings, I.e., programs for which it could not be determined a priori whether they will eventually halt. This was strongly related to Godel's work on the completeness of formal systems, and part of a larger project to disprove Godel's incompleteness theorem.
What makes this a particularly exceptional book is the manner in which Dyson connects the stories of individuals involved in the birth of electronic computing with the science itself. He does an exceptional job of explaining difficult topics like Godel incompleteness, the problems of separating noise from data, and the notion of computability in a way that the intelligent read who may not have advanced math skills will understand. More importantly, he understands the material well enough to know what are the critical concepts and accomplishments of these pioneers of computing, and doesn't fall into the trap of repeating the errors of far too many popular science writers. The result is a thoroughly original, accurate, and tremendously enjoyable history. Strongly recommended to anyone curious about the origins of computers and more importantly, the science of computing itself.
I can't for the life of me understand the acclaim this book has garnered. What's so interesting about the minutiae that a report was copied on a mimeograph or that Veblen broke the back legs of a chair? About one third though I trashed the book.