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The Universal Computer, 3rd Edition by Martin Davis

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CHAPTER 7

Turing Conceives the All-Purpose Computer

As early as 1834, Charles Babbage had conceived an automatic calculating machine. His proposed but never constructed analytical engine was intended to carry out numerical computations of the most varied kind.* To emphasize the power and scope of his engine, Babbage remarked facetiously that “it could do everything but compose country dances.” 1 While for Babbage, it was self-evident that machines designed for computation could not be expected to compose dances, it does not strike us today as being at all out of the question. In fact, today’s computers can perfectly well be programmed to compose country dances (although perhaps not of the finest quality). Someone today seeking a similar figure ...

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