Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Binary logic connection ...

A couple of weeks ago I chanced upon this article 'A house for Mr. Nilekani' and this one on Alan Turing in the Times of India. I was amazed at the research the author Anvar Alikhan  had done on Turing.

Having been professionally raised in this industry my humble research interest ( a very personal one) is in the area of chronicling small but significant people who make a living on the periphery of the Information technology industry.  I have been interested to study the Indian connections, in the world of computers.     

My interest in Turing was kindled when I was gaping in awe at the Turing machine at the Computer History museum near Palo Alto a couple of years ago. In 2012 we went on a sort of Pilgrimage tour to the original Silicon valley in California. We did a road trip from San francisco to LA visiting the headquarters of Google, Linkedin, Yahoo, Intel, Facebook and all others that are dotted down the line leading to the relatively lesser known Computer history museum near Palo Alto.

A protoype of the original Turing Machine

A latter version of what developed from the Turing Machine

1962 prototype - Pic courtesy Computer History museum 

 That was where I developed a fleeting interest in knowing more about Alan Turing, Charles Babbage and Ada Lovlace. Wikipedia and Google provided just about enough information on them that was known to the world.
Babbage machine
When I read Anvar ali Khan’s article on the TOI and the connection to the British period house called ‘Gables’ in Connoor and the fact that Mr. Nandan Nilekani bought that house without the knowledge that it may have perhaps been the place where Alan Turing spent his childhood.  I was intrigued by his research on the subject and Alan Turing's India connections. 

2012 was Turing 100th Birth anniversary and so he was in news once in a while.  But it was only when the British monarchy issueda posthumous pardon for the injustice meted out to the genius of Blethcley park who broke the German code and help the British win the war that the media lapped it up. When today’s Britain reflects upon this, the injustice seems soooo…. against the grain of what today’s liberal Britain stands for. That, a computing genius who helped the country win a war had to commit suicide by biting into an apple laden with Cyanide was such a colossal tragedy.

The homophobic Britain has indeed shed its Victorian sense of morality and come a long way  in the last 100 years. But among the legacy they left in their colonies, homophobia is a relatively lesser known but an intense one.  100 years on, the perception and legal sanction for people with alternate sexual orientation is not much different in India.   

Like Anvar Ali khan says,  if only Turing had  taken birth a little over half a century later, half way across the world ( where his parents originally lived and where he was conceived)  he would have probably graduated from an IIT or an REC, got recruited en-masse for one of the oldest programming companies, would have left off for the Silicon valley mid way through his career , may have owned a few patents, may have staged a comeback for a start-up of his own, would have advocated for curd rice to be national dish, been a die-hard Rajini fan and more importantly could have been the gay icon in India.

The insight that Alan Turing - whom I associated with everything British was in a very feeble way connected to India, made me take note of the fact that perhaps there is something Indian about the  world of  binary logic.

Afterall zero was arguably invented by Indians. 
Just a vague thought. 

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