In Turing’s Cathedral, George Dyson tackles the origins of today’s digital universe, tracing them back to John von Neumann and a group of scientists and mathematicians that worked on building advanced computers, and expanding Alan Turing’s concept of a universal machine into a history-altering reality.
One of the essential points in Dyson’s book is that computers and the advent of nuclear weapons necessitated one another. The military needed more advanced computers to perform advanced mathematical simulations for the design of nuclear weapons. The two monumental inventions, digital computers and nuclear weapons, are thus inextricably related.
With great sensitivity and attention to detail, Dyson explores the different personalities and factions involved in the emergence of the Maniac, the abbreviated name of the stored memory computer that was created at Princeton by von Neumann and his fellow mathematicians.
This device lived up to its name, as it was often unpredictable, but it was a genesis for the age of computers. Its stored memory allowed the Maniac to perform advanced computations unlike any computer before it, and paved the way not only for the advancement of nuclear weapons, but for the creation of advanced computer coding that would lead to the digital creations that now inhabit every part of life today.