THE TURING SHROUD -- AMAZING ARCHAEOLOGICAL DISCOVERY! ------------------------------------------------------ A recent sensational discovery may shed some light on a mystery which has baffled computer scientists (or 'hackers' as they prefer to be called) for decades. Although held as an article of faith by most hackers, the existence of the fabled 'Universal Turing Machine' has never been proved, and many ordinary people find the whole idea difficult to swallow. The only comparable machine in antiquity, the Analytical Engine of Charles Babbage, was only partially constructed and never lived up to its specification; in which respect, hackers say, it resembles modern machines such as the IBM 3086. Heretofore, the only evidence for the Turing Machine's existence has been in the form of documents written by the Venerable Alan Turing himself, when he was involved in the development of computing science theory between the wars. In these papers, St. Turing described (in great detail) the Universal Machine and how it was programmed. Implicit in his arguments was that the Machine itself was built and used, but the complete lack of supporting evidence, despite exhaustive searches after his Ascension into Heaven, has tended to confirm the sceptics' view that it never existed as a physical entity. They point to the fact that, after the war, St. Turing worked for some years at the National Physical Laboratory trying to build a Universal Machine, suggesting that no earlier version ever existed. Zealots have countered by saying that the pre-war machine was built, but was confiscated (in total secrecy) by the Allies to aid in the war effort, and was never returned to its inventor. They argue that the machine was destroyed in an air raid. St. Turing therefore had to start from scratch after the war and attempt to reconstruct a Machine using the then new-fangled valve technology. As we know, this attempt was abandoned in the face of competition from the USA, and he was forced to work, in Manchester, on an economy model computer, often referred to contemptuously by hackers as the Provincial Turing Machine. The recent furore stems from archaeological work carried out by dedicated hackers at a site near Cambridge. It is well known that St. Turing bought two silver bars in the Thirties as a hedge against inflation. Not trusting the banks, he buried both bars and drew maps with cryptic instructions indicating their whereabouts. Unfortunately, after the war, when he came to retrieve the bars, he only managed to find one. The two intrepid hackers subjected the map and instructions to a sophisticated computer analysis. After several fruitless months they gave up, and by scribbling a few calculations on the back of an old envelope (known in the business as the ICL approach), managed to locate the site of the missing bar in a matter of minutes. Late last Tuesday evening, they dug down to a depth of six feet before encountering a metal box. Excitedly, they smashed the lock with their spades and opened the lid. Inside, as they had hoped, they found a silver bar wrapped in a dirty piece of cloth. It was only when they brought the find home, however, that they realized the full significance of the piece of cloth, or 'Turing Shroud' as it has already been dubbed. When stretched out, the Shroud clearly bears the imprint, in oil, of a machine of great complexity. Isotopic measurements of the oil and cloth definitively show both to date from before the war. Followers of St. Turing are convinced that the Shroud is no more or less than the original wrapping of the Universal Turing Machine, and that its historical value far exceeds that of the silver bar it enfolded. Already, hackers are working day and night, using photographs of the Shroud as blueprints, to build a replica of the Machine. The entrepreneur and electronics innovator Sir Clive Sinclair, 59, who was quickly on the scene, has expressed great interest, and is giving his full financial support. "If it works, it will make even my wonderful electric car look like nothing more than an expensive toy", he commented. LATE NEWS: The Xerox corporation has announced that it is issuing a pre-emptive priority lawsuit against the Shroud's discoverers in case the machine should ever be completed.
(From the "Rest" of RHF)