5
$\begingroup$

The YouTube video Alan Turing's lost radio broadcast rerecorded contains a re-enactment of Alan Turing's lecture broadcast by the BBC.

In the introduction, the narrator (James Grimes, also of the Numberphile series of videos) states:

His lecture was titled “Can Digital Computers Think?” and was a part of a series of lectures which featured other leading figures in computing at the time. The other speakers being Douglas Hartree, Max Newman, Freddie Williams and Maurice Wilkes. Together they represented major new projects in computing at the Universities of Cambridge and Manchester. Unfortunately, these recordings no longer exist, along with all other recordings of Alan Turing.

Was there an intentional purge of all audio recordings of Alan Turing, or is this loss more likely to be accidental/unintended? If intentional, what might have been the reason, and was it restricted to him alone, or included recordings of others relating to mathematics and the future of computing science?

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Note that many TV shows from the 50's or even later are lost to us (The BBC - again - and Dr. Who come to mind) - tape was expensive, so tended to get reused, and nobody thought of (or would fund) archiving everything under the sun... $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Jun 26 '18 at 19:32
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @JonCuster - Tapes from first moon landing were reused and are lost too. Tapes were expensive. $\endgroup$ – Peter M. Jun 27 '18 at 19:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh - I agree with you completely. I was not trying to hint that we have no proof on moon landing :-) $\endgroup$ – Peter M. Jun 28 '18 at 14:17
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Turing's BBC broadcast was one of five in a series broadcast on the BBC between 5 May 1951 and 5 June 1951 - the others being Hartree, Newman, Williams, and Wilkes . It may be helpful to know if any recordings of the other lectures in the series have survived. Regarding the general case, I believe that Turing had a pronounced stammer / stutter. This may have led to him being reluctant to participate in recordings, so the absence of other recordings may not be that surprising. $\endgroup$ – Nick R Jun 28 '18 at 17:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @NickR King George VI may have had a similar reluctance, but perhaps even less autonomy. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 29 '18 at 9:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.