Birth of the Turing Machine

This cartoon appears in the book Computation Engineering: Applied Automata Theory and Logic by Dr. Ganesh Gopalakrishnan.

This cartoon underwent more computerized image processing than any other in my collection. My original drawing was extremely simple, containing only the primitive building blocks that would make up the final cartoon. This was no accident -- there was no way I wanted to draw all those rolls of tape! Much better to draw one and let Gimp do the rest! My wonderful wife, Maria, deserves most of the credit for this cartoon as she did all the editing for me after I drew the initial sketch.

Incidentally, a "Turing Machine" is an imaginary type of computer that consists of a read/write head and an infinitely long roll of tape. In theory, any mathematical problem that can be solved on a real computer can also be solved by a Turing Machine. The Turing Machine was invented by British mathematician Alan Turing in the 1930's.

The idea for this cartoon first came to me in 1997 as a student at Brigham Young University. The original version, although similar in spirit, was somewhat grittier. It depicted Alan Turing as a young boy whose parents would lock him in the basement for hours on end with nothing to play with except rolls of magnetic tape. Of course, both the basement and warehouse scenarios are purely fictitious.

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