British mathematician Alan Mathison Turing (1912–1954) was the first to propose the idea of a simple computer. Called the Turing machine, its operation was limited to reading and writing symbols on tape, moving the tape to the left or right to read the symbols one at a time. This is often considered the start of our computer age. In fact, the definition of the word “computable” is a problem that can be solved by a Turing machine. Turing was also instrumental in interpreting and deciphering encrypted German messages using the Enigma cipher machine. (For more information on computers, see “Math in Computing.”)

A statue of Alan Turing, inventor of the first simple computer, is located at the University of Surry in Guildford, England.