|Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998. |
The web as a Turing Machine Author: Dave Winer Posted: 9/12/1999; 8:47:24 PM Topic: The web as a Turing Machine Msg #: Prev/Next:
What is a Turing Machine? In 1936, before the age of computers, Alan Turing, an English mathematician working at Princeton University defined what has come to be known as a "Turing Machine". It's a very simple specification that defines what a computer is. Three simple components, a tape reader, a tape writer, and a processor. The processor reads information from the tape, transforms it, and writes the transformed data to the output tape. Many of today's everyday objects fit the Turing model. A digital cellphone is a Turing Machine its input tape is the keypad, and the output tape is its memory. If your refrigerator, car, bicycle, or stereo has a computer in it, it can be modeled as a Turing Machine. Turing discovered the mathematics of computers, and his model still works, and probably always will work, to simplify the understanding of what we do with computers.
The web as a Turing machine Now, if so many things are computers, is the web also a computer, according to Turing's mathematics? Well, yes and no. Much of the web is static pages that do not respond to input. Those are not Turing. But more of the web is dynamic, and that part fits the Turing model, and therefore, is just like any other computer you might encounter.