Charles Petzold

“The Annotated Turing” Hot Off the Presses!

June 5, 2008
Roscoe, N.Y.

Yesterday I received a few “hot off the presses” copies of The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour through Alan Turing's Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine, kindly forwarded to me by Wiley, the book's publisher. Even after writing 15 books over the past 20 years, I still get a thrill when I see the first copies.

Just to get a sense how the book is shipping to people other than the author, a couple weeks ago Deirdre and I submitted test orders to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This morning B&N sent me an email saying that the book is "now packed and ready to leave our warehouse." I guess they're just waiting for the UPS guy to show up. Amazon hasn't been quite as prompt; let's just hope they don't mess up royally like they did with 3D Programming for Windows.

I wish I could say that The Annotated Turing was "10 years in the making" but it's really only been 9 years. I created the first Word file for the book on May 12, 1999, and I sent my final fixes to the production editor on May 8, 2008. From its conception to its completion, the idea behind the book remained constant: to put Alan Turing's 1936 paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem" in an historical and intellectual context, and then to annotate the hell out of it.

Whether this was a great idea for a book or a really stupid idea for a book, I never really decided, but undecidability is what Turing's paper is all about, so I wasn't very concerned.

Now the book is yours rather than mine, and I'm interested in hearing your reactions to it.

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