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(These and other historic documents are now available online in The Turing Archive for the History of Computing.) Part III of 'Alan Turing, Father of the Modern Computer' is a digital facsimile of 'Proposed Electronic Calculator', Turing's 48-page report describing his revolutionary electronic computing machine. (A paper version of the report is available in the book Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine.) Four more electronic stored-program computers become operational: EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) at the University of Cambridge, followed by BINAC (Binary Automatic Computer) in the U.
S., the CSIR Mark I (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Mark I Computer) in Australia, and Whirlwind I in the U. Turing introduced his abstract Turing machines in his first major publication, 'On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem' (1936).4 (Turing referred to these simply as 'computing machines'—the American logician Alonzo Church dubbed them 'Turing machines'.5) 'On Computable Numbers' pioneered the idea essential to the modern computer—the concept of controlling a computing machine's operations by means of a program of coded instructions stored in the machine's memory.
The scanner moves back and forth through the memory, examining one square at a time (the 'scanned square').
It reads the symbols on the tape and writes further symbols.
The tape itself is limitless—in fact Turing's aim was to show that there are tasks that Turing machines cannot perform, even given unlimited working memory and unlimited time.
A Turing machine has a small repertoire of basic operations: move left one square, move right one square, print, and change state. The scanner can print a symbol on the scanned square (after erasing any existing symbol).
By changing its state the machine can, as Turing put it, 'remember some of the symbols which it has "seen" (scanned) previously'.6 Turing did not specify a mechanism for changing state—Turing machines are abstractions and proposing a specific mechanism is unnecessary—but one can easily be imagined.
Suppose that a device within the scanner consists of a dial with a finite number of positions, labelled 'a', 'b', 'c', and so on, each position counting as a different state.
Much of Part II is in the words of the original protagonists, drawn from documents of the time.
His technical report 'Proposed Electronic Calculator', dating from the end of 1945 and containing his design for the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), was the first relatively complete specification of an electronic stored-program digital computer.