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The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing
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The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  103 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Computers are everywhere today -- at work, in the bank, in artist's studios, sometimes even in our pockets -- yet they remain to many of us objects of irreducible mystery. How can today's computers perform such a bewildering variety of tasks if computing is just glorified arithmetic? The answer, as Martin Davis lucidly illustrates, lies in the fact that computers are essen ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 17th 2000 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published October 2000)
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Maurizio Codogno
Il 2012 è stato il centenario della nascita di Alan Turing, e nell'occasione sono state pubblicate molte opere su di lui. Questo libro in realtà è del 2000, ma Martin Davis l'ha aggiornato in alcune parti, compreso un rapido accenno al programma di computer Watson che nel 2011 vinse una gara del quiz televisivo "Jeopardy", proprio per l'occasione.

L'approccio di Davis non è esattamente biografico, anche se il testo contiene varie brevi biografie da quella di Leibniz a quella di Turing; il filo co
Jan 12, 2010 Steve rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: yes.
Recommended to Steve by: Logicomix
Martin Davis, a notable logician who work for (and with) very notable mathematicians and scientists, writes about the relationship amongst math, logic, and computation.

He surveys the lives and achievements of thinkers from Leibniz and Babbage to von Neumann and Turing and discusses what these ideas mean for modern computing.

The Universal Computer is a rather quick read, with the biographical content being particularly brisk, and there are points where some readers may like more detail, but this
Dennis O'Brien
This is an amazing book describing the history of computational logic and the mathematicians who made major contributions to the field that eventually led to the computer. Each chapter focuses on a single contributor, looking at his life and times as well as the radical breakthroughs made. Though the story stretches almost four hundred years, there is a feeling of continuity in the development of logic and it is really exciting to watch the culmination in the intellectual powerhouse of Alan Turi ...more
Paul Berg
Nov 22, 2008 Paul Berg is currently reading it
After reading "Cryptonomicon" and currently on "Quicksilver" by Neal Stephenson this book at the San Juan College library caught my eye. Martin Davis (who's PHD predates my birth by 8 years) follows the development of the ideas from Leibniz to Turing that lead to the universal computer. I credit Stephenson for sparking an interest in line of thought that is inherent in Crypto' and "The Baroque Cycle". What I found interesting, so far, is that Newton does not have a chapter in this book and is on ...more
A fascinating exposition of the factors leading to the development of the universal computer and its partial embodiments in today's computers. Martin Davis writes with a charm and directness that I cannot help but find engaging; he doesn't "talk down" to his readers, and the copious notes at the end of the book are, if anything, even more interesting than the main content itself. His focus on the role of Alan Turing is especially gratifying.

[My thanks to Graham Birtwistle for lending me his copy
Javier Cano
The history not of computing, but the history of the general purpose computer. The storytelling is from the perspective of the minds that provided the ideas and principles behind such an amazing device, instead of a historical point of view. The author talk about the motivations of these seven characters which lead them to conceive such amazing ideas that converged in a general purpuse computer. The author also discusses philosophical issues and the consequences of these ideas.
Thore Husfeldt
A solid, lucid, focussed, well-structured, and highly readable exposition of the logical foundations of computation. From Leibniz’s dream of a rational and computable universe, via the logical formalisms of Boole and Frege and Hilbert’s program to heartbreak and catastrophe in the form of Gödel’s results. Until, like a mechanical Phoenix, the Turing machine rises from the ashes and transforms the world.

This book is a model of popular scientific writing.
Peter Mcloughlin
This book is a fun book to read on the history and development of the idea behind the universal computer. It is not very deep in terms of the Mathematical ideas involved but it gives a flavor of the ideas. It is really good at profiling the colorful characters who developed these ideas and their often dramatic lives. A fun book to read and not very technical despite the title.
I high recommend this book to understand theoretical basis of modern computer, especially for programmers. There are number of books about those subject, Gödel, Escher, and Bach / The Code / Logicomix for example, but this book is much easier to understand without any detours.
A quick read on the history of logic from Leibniz to Turing.
Jim Mccormick
Outstanding review of key personalities behind the development of logic. Interesting summary of the design of the earliest computers. Very reasonable perspective based on first-hand experience of mid-century computer developments. Objective presentation of divergent personal views of many of these great minds.
Jose Carlos
Sin duda, un libro que cualquiera que se dedique a la Ing. Informática debe leer. Aunque, por supuesto, lo recomiendo a cualquiera que tenga cierta curiosidad en el tema. Un viaje de tres siglos, en el que se muestra los pasos por los se pasó para llegar a la idea de la computadora universal.
This book traces the developments and the lives of the people who made them, that advanced logic theory until it was fit for digital computers. Excellently written and easy to read, I was equally intrigued by the theory and by the diverse characters who created it.
Choosing to rate this book is an undecidable problem.
In this case it's a good thing that I'm only human.

To hyperbolize the spirit of the book:

'the author writes about all logicians who didn't write about themselves'

Douglas Summers-Stay
Another book I read as research for my book. His discussion of Leibniz was good from a computing perspective, as opposed to the language perspective that Umberto Eco had in his book.
a very fun, readable, and concise overview of the development of formal logic and its eventual implementation as the basis for computation...
Peter Flom
A "pre-history" of the digital computer, covering the ideas that led up to its invention and some of the key participants in that development
My brain may explode from the logic problems in the book, but it was really interesting. I'm glad I read it.
Un tentativo non del tutto riuscito di replicare il ben più celebre Gödel, Escher, Bach...
Mike Murray
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matthew Fricke
Some interesting anecdotes but not very deep.
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