I saw The Imitation Game with Erin last night. This is the movie based upon the life of Alan Turing, the British mathematician who helped break enigma, and conceived of general purpose computing (à la Turing machines), and is famous for the concept of the Turing test. 

The Turing test, of course, was part of the inspiration for the title The Turing Exception for my new novel.

Although I knew a bit about Alan Turing from past reading and studies I was lucky enough to see George Dyson, author of Turing’s Cathedral, speak at the Defrag conference in November. George Dyson is a science historian and brother of technology analyst Esther Dyson. George gave a great keynote presentation at Defrag and I got to spend an evening chatting with him about Alan Turing, early physicists and mathematicians, the war effort, technology, artificial intelligence, and the singularity. In all, it was a fabulous discussion spanning many topics.

So I was quite excited to see The Imitation Game. From some reviews I glimpsed, it appears the movie isn’t 100% true to the historical record. But having not yet read Turing’s Cathedral, and it having been a while since I studied the details of that time, I was able to enjoy the movie without worrying about technical inaccuracies. I’d call this a must-see for anyone for has an interest in the origin of computers or cryptography.

I can be pretty sensitive to movies, so I ended up pretty emotional and crying at the end of the film. Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician who we lost at the age of 41 because of his treatment as a homosexual.

Having seen the film, I’m now excited to go read Turing’s Cathedral.

Having related the general outlines of the story (minus the homosexual persecutation) to my kids, they were pretty interested, and wanted to know if we could create an Enigma machine. There’s a great one-page PDF paper enigma machine that allows you to perform the basics of rotor encryption.