When you read something like “the unlikely war hero”, your mind automatically pictures a large field; to the left is a battalion of soldiers and to the right is a man, unaffected and not scared of what is to come.
Well, in literal sense that might not have happened, but nonetheless that’s what happened.
And no, the man didn’t pick up a rifle to do that, he created a machine.
When you talk about early technological advancements, the first name that comes up is Alan Turing, a man also known as the father of modern computing.
“soldiers win wars” is a common saying, and the people love to believe that and even though Alan Turing was a lot of things, he was not a soldier.
He wasn’t even close to anything that resembled a soldier.
He had a very difficult and lonely childhood, he was bullied time and again as a teenager. So, it’s not difficult to imagine why he hated wars and bullies who thrived off them.
World War 2 was a difficult time for Britain because Germany had the upper hand in almost every department and to make things worse the Germans had developed an encryption device called “enigma” which the whole world believed to be unbeatable.
The enigma machine was used to encode and decode the messages, to tackle eavesdropping. The machine had to be given a setting and each setting encoded the message in a different way.
There were approx. 159,000,000,000 different ways a message could be encoded; and the Germans changed the setting every day at midnight, making the previous day’s work obsolete.
No wonder people assumed it to be unbeatable.
In those days intercepting enemy messages was a child’s play, since all the communications happened through radio.
So, obviously the Britishers had an active team working throughout the day to capture all the communications between the German troops and the high command, but then, it made no sense to the Britishers since it was just gibberish without the decryption key.
Obviously, the next logical step for them was to hire cryptanalysts, to break the code and that’s how Alan Turing entered the frame.
Alan Turing was a renowned Mathematician with an affinity for cryptography.
He, with his team created a machine called the Turing machine to beat the German enigma machine, essentially winning the war, making it shorter by almost 2 years and saving millions of lives in the process.
The importance of the Turing machine cannot be explained in a sentence. It was the first step towards machine learning, which is the cornerstone of every technological advancement that we have now.
But, this recognition was given to him long after his death, which was a sad end to a great man, a modern hero.
When we talk about heroes, there’s usually no collateral damage involved, but unfortunately this is not one of those happy stories.
But then, he wasn’t a superhero, only a man.