The Turing Programming Language

Using the Language of Alan Turing, father of modern computing

While thousands call for an apology for the treatment of Alan Turing, computer programmers can use the language inspired by the father of modern computing.

In 1952 Alan Turing (often called the father of modern computing) underwent a procedure that most people would find unacceptable today. He was chemically castrated and, even though he was famous for his WWII code breaking work at Bletchley Park, all of his security privileges were revoked at GCHQ (the UK Government Communications Headquarters).

Two years later he was dead, having taken committed suicide at the age of 42 by taking cyanide. And the crime that ruined his career and ultimately ended his life? He was homosexual. Now the BBC reports that at long last thousands call for Turing apology.

Whilst many programmers will be well aware of the legacy of Alan Turing, and may even have signed the petition requesting that the British Prime Minister to apologize for the prosecution of Alan Turing that led to his untimely death, they may not be aware that there is a programming language that bears his name.

The Turing Programming Language

The Turing Programming language has, of course, no direct links to Alan Turing himself. Ric Holt and James Cordy, from the University of Toronto, developed Turing in 1982. They developed it as a teaching language and it is still used in many Ontario high schools.

Obtaining the Turing Programming Language

The Turing programming language was produced by Holt Software Inc. who have since ceased operating. However, before they went out of business they placed the language into the public domain and so the files for the language can now be found on the Computer Science Canada web site. These files consist of:

  • Turing software for the PC
  • The Holt Software Ready to Program Java IDE (Integrated Development Environment)
  • Programming in Turing documentation

The programmer will need to:

  • download and run the Ready IDE installation package
  • download and unzip the Turing language application

Once that’s all been done then the programmer will find that they have a new folder containing the Turing executable.

Creating a Simple Turing Application

The programmer starts the Turing programming language by double clicking on the Turing application (as shown in figure 1 at the bottom of this article), and that will open up the IDE (as shown in figure 2). This can then be used by the programer to enter Turing’s simple and clean syntax, for example:

var a: int
put “The number is “, a

Here an integer is defined and then displayed (as shown in figure 3). The file can now be saved and reused and required.

The Turing Programming Language and User Inputs

The “put” method displays information on the screen and so, quite logically, the “get” method obtains an input from the user, for example:

var ip: real
put “Enter an angle in degrees:”
get ip
put “The cosine of “, ip, ” is “, cosd(ip)

The result of this can be seen in figure 4 and, although simple, shows how quickly a useful application can be development. This is even more useful when the programmer considers that Turing has:

  • a graphical mode so that forms can be created
  • an object oriented programming extension

And so, as well as an effective teaching tool for high school students, Turing is also a powerful language for the professional programmer.


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