Movie: The Imitation Game – Alan Turing and Cracking the Enigma Code!


Dear Commons Community,

I went to see The Imitation Game last night. The movie is about Alan Turing who builds a computer (Christopher) during World War II to crack the German coding system named Enigma. Some might see this as good period film about codes and cryptography but it is much more as it tries to reveal the genius of Turing along with his social awkwardness and his homosexuality. It is based on a biography by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma (Princeton University Press, 1983).  I won’t say too much more about film other than that it is extremely well-done and for those of us interested in the history of technology, it is a special treat. Turing’s universal machine was one of the first true computers and built using relays and other crude electronics by today’s standards. Seeing the actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Turing, “program” the machine using a plug board, will bring back memories for those of us who were using similar techniques in the late 1960s on vacuum tube computers.

After the movie, there was a panel discussion at the theater which featured the computer scientist and Turing Award recipient Leslie Valiant, MacArthur Fellow Craig Gentry, a research scientist in the Cryptography Research Group at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, and Glen Whitney, the founder and president of the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath). They filled in a number of gaps. Gentry gave the film a “B” for authenticity.

Readers who know Turing’s life story will enjoy it and those who don’t will be introduced to a true but tragic genius. A New York Times book review was very positive.



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