On January 22, the historic drama “The Imitation Game” is first shown in German movie theaters. The movie depicts the life of Alan Turing (*June 23, 1912 | † June 7, 1954), a British logician, mathematician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist. The main characters are played by Benedict Cumberbatch (known actor from “Sherlock Holmes”) and Keira Knightley (e.g. “Pirates of the Caribbean”).
During World War II, Alan Turing and his team of mathematicians, linguists, and chess champions significantly contributed the Allies attempts in decrypting German radio messages in Bletchley Park.
(Amongst the English chess players in Bletchley Park were the British national players Hugh Alexander, Stuart Milner-Barry, and Harry Golombek. Later on, Milner-Barry took over different honorable positions in British ministries, Golombek became chess publicist and referee, and Alexander had a career as manager of the decrypting department of the MI5, which is the reason why he wasn’t allowed to participate in tournaments in the East at that time.)
During World War II, the German Armed Forces encrypted messages by automatic means called Engima. The rotating cylinders of this machine caused letters of a message to be substituted by another letter. The initial position of these cylinders was chanced on a daily basis. The receiver of the message only had to know the correct initial position of the day to decrypt the message. The unlimited number of possibilities made it necessary to invent another machine that helped the Allies to limit those possibilities to finally help decrypt messages. Turing and his mathematic models significantly contributed to the Allies’ decrypting attempts.
The insights Turing gained during some of his decryptions helped developing the first digital programmable electronic valve computer ENIAC. Several historians, experts, and cryptologists agree that the UK would have lost the submarine war if it weren’t for the decryption of the German’s Marine Enigma. Some even speculate that Hitler would have won the war, if the Allies wouldn’t have been able to read the messages of the German Armed Forces. The work of Alan Turing is thus of severe historic importance.
Deviations from the truth
Despite the eight-times nomination for the Oscars Award, the already received awards (amongst others the Audience Prize at the Toronto Film Festival) and the many positive reviews (89% positive feedback from the movie critique generator Rotten Tomatoes), some untruths were woven into the drama.
A number of historic misrepresentations were doubtlessly proven. The movie depicts USSR spy John Cairncross in Turning’s team as an important player – the spy is exposed by Turning and later on arrested for homosexuality, after observations had proven the suspicion of espionage. In reality, due to working conditions and security regulations, Turing and Cairncross could have never met at Bletchley Park. Historically proven is the fact that Turing and his private life became the center of attention after he had turned himself in for theft and got caught in contradictory statements.
Alan Turing and Chess
In 1952, Turing wrote one of the first automated chess programs, the calculations for which he made all by himself because of the absence of an adequate computer. He wrote down the instruction sequence on a piece of paper, which is why the program is called “Paper-Engine”.
A single calculation per every move took him about thirty minutes. He lost the only game documented in writing to a colleague.
Who knows what other inventions and Developments Turing would have been capable of, if he hadn’t been convicted with fornication and sexual perversion after having committed to his homosexuality. The verdict forced him to go through hormonal treatment which triggered severe depressions and resulted in suicide with a poisoned apple on June 7, 1954.
written by Sarah, translated by Birthe