back to article The Imitation Game: Bringing Alan Turing's classified life to light

For director Morten Tyldum and writer Graham Moore, the life of Alan Turing is about more than the fact that he was gay, or that he was a genius or that he was one of the keepers of arguably the biggest secret of World War II. Both film-makers agree that Turing’s story is about outsiders and how being an outsider can be exactly …

  1. DJO Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Really?

    Not only was Turing’s most famous work – breaking the German Enigma code during World War II

    Er, no, that was broken by Polish codebreakers before the war had started and they passed their knowledge to British intelligence, Turing took that work and expanded on it to crack the more complex codes used by the German high command.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Really?

      No, no, no: Tunny was broken by not Turing. The part about the Poles is correct though. See also: Hut 8.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Really?

      Not quite. The polish and the french both broke (or rather developed the techniques to attack) the original version of the enigma. The poles after the Germans accidentally shipped a machine to them instead of the German embassy.

      Bletchley park cracked the more complex version with rotors and developed ways to do so in useful time - there is little tactical benefit in taking 3months to crack a code that changes daily.

      The real unknown genius of Bletchley is Tutte who cracked the far more complex Lorenz system without anyone ever having seen one.

    3. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Really?

      Please at least read something (perhaps the Wikipedia article) on the matter before commenting.

  2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    RIGHT!

    “I think that if it was a film about a straight mathematician, people would never say, 'Oh, how come there’s no sex scenes so we know he’s straight?'”

    JJ Abrams will be in charge for pointless affirmation of "hes is NOT GAY, get it?"

    Now everybody read On Computable Numbers with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem

    Bonus points for reading Alonzo Church's paper, "A Note on the Entscheidungsproblem" (The Journal of Symbolic Logic, Vol. 1, No. 1. (Mar., 1936), pp. 40-41.) , which unbelievably for 2014 demands Google-fu to get past the paywall usher on JSTOR. Aaron Swartz's work IS NOT YET COMPLETE.

    Background from Jimbo's Nollij Store:

    Church's paper was presented to the American Mathematical Society on 19 April 1935 and published on 15 April 1936. Turing, who had made substantial progress in writing up his own results, was disappointed to learn of Church's proof upon its publication (see correspondence between Max Newman and Church in Alonzo Church papers). Turing quickly completed his paper and rushed it to publication; it was received by the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society on 28 May 1936, read on 12 November 1936, and published in series 2, volume 42 (1936-7); it appeared in two sections: in Part 3 (pages 230-240), issued on Nov 30, 1936 and in Part 4 (pages 241–265), issued on Dec 23, 1936; Turing added corrections in volume 43(1937) pp. 544–546.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: RIGHT!

      If you want to read the paper take a look at Petzold's book on turing's work

      Even if you understand the maths it's useful to have the 1930s fonts and notation explained.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "And Moore said that you don’t need a sex scene in a movie to “prove” a character is a gay."

    I wonder why it is then that so many films insist on wandering into showing characters are "straight" when it has no real bearing on the story? Double standards at play methinks. No wonder there are so few gay role models for young gay people, it seems the media cannot bring itself to link outstanding achievement /braveness by a gay man in too positive a light

    In reality I believe that has more to do with the film makers discomfort in dealing with the subject of gay men (far less acceptable to the average heterosexual male than gay women).

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Or it's because a sex scene lets you show some tit and so boosts your audience.

      Most "straight" sex scenes in movies don't tend to concentrate on the leading man's dangly bits.

    2. Steve Knox
      Paris Hilton

      Reading WAYYYYY too much into it...

      I wonder why it is then that so many films insist on wandering into showing characters are "straight" when it has no real bearing on the story? Double standards at play methinks.

      No, savvy producers manipulating horny bastards at play. Those scenes aren't there to show that people are straight, they're there because sex sells.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aspergers etc

    I'm getting increasingly depressed by the "medicalisation" of the variety of human behaviour. First we had autism, then Aspergers, then it became a "spectrum" so all kinds of things could be subsumed by the label, including behaviour which in the past would be considered annoying or mildly eccentric but within the norms.

    If we didn't know there was a vast pharmaceutical industry with an enormous marketing budget we might wonder why so many things have to be diseases or syndromes.

    Some people are brilliant mathematicians whose brains have the ability to concentrate on extremely abstract stuff for long periods. As a result they may interact a bit differently from your average refuse collector or marketing executive. Whoop de do. Those of us who are much less talented but understand a bit of what they are thinking can admire from a suitable distance. And perhaps, unlike the "vastly talented" (in their own estimation) media people, civil servants and politicians, we may not feel the need to label this talent in a vaguely patronising and derogatory manner, so as to try and preserve our fragile self respect when in the presence of real genius or near genius.

    The Turing story has as a major thread running through it the fact that he (and his many less famous colleagues) succeeded despite the best efforts of the Security Services and the Civil Service. It took another genius, this time with depressive tendencies (Churchill) to produce the famous minute about Bletchley Park (basically "give them everything they want and do it now").

    Turing famously remarked that the ideal person to run AT&T was a "mediocre" talent. Unfortunately the civil servants who ran the post-war Government computing project didn't even match up to that.

    1. DocJames

      Re: Aspergers etc

      Arnaut the less: Autism and Aspergers are considered a spectrum as there is a spectrum of disease. It's real. It is not the fault of the medical profession or the pharmaceutical industry (well, mostly not) that the media and now most of Western culture uses the term to describe anyone who is 1) clever with numbers (meaning capable of more than simple arithmetic) and 2) a loner (meaning doesn't conform to all societal norms). It is also not helped by people using it as a label in order to justify their self-perception as "special".

      I agree the pharmaceutical industry is pushing the boundaries of disease and normality in an attempt to increase profits... DSM V and the furore around that are probably the place to start, not whether historical figures should or should not be labelled as such.

      OTOH, completely agree with your final 2 paras.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Aspergers etc

        Fair comment: I was failing properly to distinguish the medical profession and the people who play doctors in the media. But I still think the recycling of terms from other disciplines is a mistake because it facilitates miscomprehension. In the good old days medics stuck to bastard Latinogreek to avoid namespace collision. Aspergers/Autism is not a spectrum; it's a multivariate condition with differing degrees of expression, and if that needs a special word that doesn't have a more usual meaning as a range of wavelengths, that would be better. But it's probably too late now.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: Aspergers etc

          That's pretty much what spectrum means these days, in contexts outside the measurement of light. One of its definitions is "a range; a continuous, infinite, one-dimensional set, possibly bounded by extremes." presumably taken from the near-infinite gradation of the electromagnetic spectrum. Words tend to get used for similar but distinct ideas and over time, and in differing contexts, change meaning in quite fundamental ways.

          Since we're getting picky about words, however, I must stress that it's not Aspergers/autism. Aspergers is one expression of the condition and is more properly labelled as higher-functioning autism to distinguish it from more severe expressions of the condition. It's also not a disease.

    2. AbelSoul
      Trollface

      Re: Aspergers etc

      I'm getting increasingly depressed by the "medicalisation" of the variety of human behaviour.

      Isn't there a name for that condition nowadays?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Aspergers etc

        "Isn't there a name for that condition nowadays?"

        I don't know, but all the diodes down my left side hurt.

    3. Dr Scrum Master
      Headmaster

      Re: Aspergers etc

      >As a result they may interact a bit differently from your average refuse collector or marketing executive.

      I see what you did there, you juxtaposed refuse collector with refuse producer. How clever.

  5. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Turing

    "I wonder why it is then that so many films insist on wandering into showing characters are "straight" when it has no real bearing on the story? Double standards at play methinks."

    Ithinks you're wrong and are seeing what you want to see. Although there are plenty of movies that *do* show the characters.. I guess I'll say cavorting.. there are plenty that show nothing more than a little flirt and many more that have nothing like this at all. This is a documentary, conditions made it dangerous for him to even seek out other men, and he himself described it as a "sexual desert" (meaning to me he was unsuccessful in finding any men to go out with anyway), so it's natural that he would not be cavorting with a man in the movie.

    " No wonder there are so few gay role models for young gay people, it seems the media cannot bring itself to link outstanding achievement /braveness by a gay man in too positive a light"

    It's a documentary. And it sounds like it does cover Turing's achievements just fine. This documentary chose to go for accuracy, not be all revisionist and pretend that Turing could be as flamboyant as he wants to be. Or maybe he was as flamboyant as he wanted to be -- maybe his gay flamboyance and nerdy non-flamboyance were cancelling each other out and he just wasn't that flamboyant 8-) .

  6. Gene Cash Silver badge

    FTFY

    "Turing’s story is about geniuses and how being an genius can be exactly what’s needed"

  7. Yes Me Silver badge
    Happy

    Unsung?

    "unsung hero"? I'm mean I'm a Turing groupie and all, but he's been in the public eye since the Hodges biography came out in 1983. Or see Brian Randell, On Alan Turing and the Origins of Digital Computers, Machine Intelligence 7 (1972) for the earliest hints that I know of.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Unsung?

      P.S. The ACM Turing Award was first given out in 1966. Of course, then, Turing was mainly known for computability theory and AI. It was Randell who revealed him as a cryptanalyst and computing pioneer. And it was much more recently that he was celebrated for his work on morphology.

  8. Cipher

    His death?

    Officially suicide, murder by the conspiracy theorists.

    Maybe an accident, the man was known to experiment with odd things, cyanide included...

    Suicide or Accident

  9. Dr Scrum Master
    Joke

    Sexual Desert

    Isn't that what a marriage is?

  10. clatters

    The real hero...

    was Tommy Flowers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Flowers,

    He used his own money to build the first programmable computer and nobody recognises his work. Folk forever bang-on about Babbage building the first computer (he didn't as you all know) and the bleeding rediculous comment on Radio 4 last week was that "Ada Byron was the first programmer, despite the fact that there was no computers at that time", I kid you not, my wife and I (both in IT for decades) just laughed at this nonsense.

    Cheers

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