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Glossary of terms

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Turing machine, Turing test, Turing award

Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954) was the English mathematician who led the team that cracked the German Enigma code machine during World War II. He pioneered computer science and artificial intelligence with two seminal concepts:
 
  • "Turing machine": an abstract device that executes a task by following a procedure consisting of changing a finite set of states through very basic steps. In other words, it is a computer algorithm. Turing further stated that "every known process" can be turned into a software programme, although he also proved that it is impossible to guarantee that any programme will always run to completion.
  • "Turing test": a machine is said to be "intelligent" if an observer engaging in a natural language conversation with one human and one machine, both trying to behave like humans, is unable to tell for sure which is which.
 
Turing's name has been given to a most respected prize in computer science, the Turing award, commonly recognized as the "Nobel Prize of computing", bestowed by the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery).
 
The A. M. Turing Award is given annually to "an individual selected for contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community. The contributions should be of lasting and major technical importance to the computer field".
 
As at 2007, the Turing award includes a prize of US$250,000 (about €193,000).