We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
Call anytime(888) 283-5051
Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe | [George Dyson]

Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe

In the 1940s and '50s, a group of eccentric geniuses - led by John von Neumann - gathered at the newly created Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Their joint project was the realization of the theoretical universal machine, an idea that had been put forth by mathematician Alan Turing. This group of brilliant engineers worked in isolation, almost entirely independent from industry and the traditional academic community. But because they relied exclusively on government funding, the government wanted its share of the results....
Regular Price:$33.60
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Your Likes make Audible better!

'Likes' are shared on Facebook and Audible.com. We use your 'likes' to improve Audible.com for all our listeners.

You can turn off Audible.com sharing from your Account Details page.

OK

Publisher's Summary

Legendary historian and philosopher of science George Dyson vividly re-creates the scenes of focused experimentation, incredible mathematical insight, and pure creative genius that gave us computers, digital television, modern genetics, models of stellar evolution - in other words, computer code.

In the 1940s and '50s, a group of eccentric geniuses - led by John von Neumann - gathered at the newly created Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Their joint project was the realization of the theoretical universal machine, an idea that had been put forth by mathematician Alan Turing. This group of brilliant engineers worked in isolation, almost entirely independent from industry and the traditional academic community. But because they relied exclusively on government funding, the government wanted its share of the results: the computer that they built also led directly to the hydrogen bomb. George Dyson has uncovered a wealth of new material about this project, and in bringing the story of these men and women and their ideas to life, he shows how the crucial advancements that dominated twentieth-century technology emerged from one computer in one laboratory, where the digital universe as we know it was born.

©2012 George Dyson (P)2012 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

“The most powerful technology of the last century was not the atomic bomb, but software - and both were invented by the same folks. Even as they were inventing it, the original geniuses imagined almost everything software has become since. At long last, George Dyson delivers the untold story of software’s creation. It is an amazing tale brilliantly deciphered.” (Kevin Kelly, cofounder of WIRED magazine, author of What Technology Wants)

“It is a joy to read George Dyson’s revelation of the very human story of the invention of the electronic computer, which he tells with wit, authority, and insight. Read Turing’s Cathedral as both the origin story of our digital universe and as a perceptive glimpse into its future.” (W. Daniel Hillis, inventor of The Connection Machine, author of The Pattern on the Stone)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (120 )
5 star
 (44)
4 star
 (32)
3 star
 (26)
2 star
 (11)
1 star
 (7)
Overall
3.7 (103 )
5 star
 (40)
4 star
 (22)
3 star
 (20)
2 star
 (13)
1 star
 (8)
Story
4.0 (103 )
5 star
 (41)
4 star
 (32)
3 star
 (23)
2 star
 (6)
1 star
 (1)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Monte Johnston Clayton, NC 03-12-12
    Monte Johnston Clayton, NC 03-12-12 Member Since 2007

    ...master of none

    HELPFUL VOTES
    46
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    32
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Needed an editor"
    Would you try another book from George Dyson and/or Arthur Morey?

    No.


    What was most disappointing about George Dyson???s story?

    What was most disappointing about the story is that there was no story. At different points in the book it seems a story of Von Neumann, the Institute of Advanced Study, the development of computer technology, a hundred other scientists and engineers, etc. It ends up being none of them. It seems more like a collection of notebooks that contained the potential to form a good book or story.

    I was even hoping to learn a bit more of the technology of computers, but all explanations were given in the language of engineers. The book on the Eniac available on audible is much better.


    Did Arthur Morey do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    The performance was fine.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Couldn't have been much more disappointed.


    Any additional comments?

    Save your credits.

    14 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    john Battery Point, Australia 01-29-13
    john Battery Point, Australia 01-29-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    20
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    27
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Turing's vision; Von Neumann's construction"

    While good coverage and credit is given to Turing for the ideas that he had and the work he did to spark the computer revolution this book is more focused on Von Neumann as the driving force behind creating the machine at the Institute for Advanced Studies, sometimes referred to as MANIAC.

    I assume that the book title may have been driven a little by marketing department awareness that Alan Turing has become a commonly known name amongst those with more than passing interest in the history of computing while Von Neumann is yet to gain the 'household name' level of recognition that he deserves.

    While the 'Turing Machine' was a stunning intellectual achievement in abstract thinking about the science and mathematics of computing the actual machines that we are using are often, and rightly, described as 'Von Neumann Machines'

    If you know the subject well this is a great summary and includes interesting facts that you may well not know about just how things got done. If the way Turing's ideas ended up in the machine you are reading this one is not familiar to you then this is the best way of filling in that gap that I know of.

    The pace is good and the tone conversational (this is a history of people and ideas, not a text book) and the delivery is in the upper end of Audible's range.

    If you care about how the computer revolution that we are living through got through it's teething stages and got to its feet and started walking then I can highly recommend this as an entertaining and informative way to learn a lot more than I thought I would in a weekend's listening.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Monte Clayton, NC, United States 03-12-12
    Monte Clayton, NC, United States 03-12-12 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    9
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Needed an editor"
    Would you try another book from George Dyson and/or Arthur Morey?

    No.


    What was most disappointing about George Dyson’s story?

    What was most disappointing about the story is that there was no story. At different points in the book it seems a story of Von Neumann, the Institute of Advanced Study, the development of computer technology, a hundred other scientists and engineers, etc. It ends up being none of them. It seems more like a collection of notebooks that contained the potential to form a good book or story.

    I was even hoping to learn a bit more of the technology of computers, but all explanations were given in the language of engineers. The book on the Eniac available on audible is much better.


    Did Arthur Morey do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    The performance was fine.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Couldn't have been much more disappointed.


    Any additional comments?

    Save your credits.

    13 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Kalus British Columbia 12-22-12
    M. Kalus British Columbia 12-22-12 Member Since 2011

    Jack of all Trades, Master of None

    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    118
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A fascinating look at the people behind it all"
    What did you love best about Turing's Cathedral?

    It gave an interesting perspective about how and why the modern day computer was invented, including some amusing insights to some of the brightest minds of the 20th century.


    What did you like best about this story?

    That it was real :)


    What about Arthur Morey’s performance did you like?

    I thought it was well executed, as the book doesn't really feature any dialog or characters the "neutral" delivery was appreciated.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Nothing in particular, but there were a lot of little chuckles when it came to some of these people's behaviour. In no small part because it makes these mythical people human.


    Any additional comments?

    I wish there would have been a bit more attention being paid to other pioneers in the computing field, but having said that, their legacy really lives on by the technology I use right now to write these words so: *raises glass*

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-21-12
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-21-12 Member Since 2001

    Retired, bike rider, and love science and technology audible books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Too much history not enough Turing"

    One of the few books where I did not read it all. I generally love any book about Turing or information theory, but he delved too much in to the history. I really didn't need to know that the Indian tribe was on the site of the think tank before the think tank was built on it and so on. Not enough on Turing and his theory and too much history for my taste. (If you like history more than information theory, the book can work for you and go ahead and give it a try).

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carlos Antwerpen, Belgium 04-29-12
    Carlos Antwerpen, Belgium 04-29-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "recent science applied allready"

    Most scientific discoveries take a long time to make it to the general public. In the case of mathematics this is even more visible, people applying mathematics in real life, usually hear the names from antiquity to the renaissance, but seldom the names of people of the twenty century.
    Computer science is a recent science, and here we hear about people that can have existed in our lifetime who changed the world with science and technology.
    I was surprised to find out that the architecture of our computers has been thought out so recently. (Which actually shows me how little I thought about the subject) And that for the pioneers of the forties, the choices aren't as evident as they appear to be now.
    Recent history can seem so distant when you take things for granted.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 08-08-12
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 08-08-12 Member Since 2001

    Letting the rest of the world go by

    HELPFUL VOTES
    697
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    182
    159
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    122
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Too much history not enough Turing"

    One of the few books where I did not listen to all of it. I generally love any book about Turing or information theory, but he delved too much in to the history. I really didn't need to know that the Indian tribe was on the site of the think tank before the think tank was built on it and so on. Not enough on Turing and his theory and too much history for my taste. (If you like history more than information theory, the book can work for you and go ahead and give it a try)

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew D. Powell Tampa FL 03-30-12
    Matthew D. Powell Tampa FL 03-30-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    36
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Quite a book. A bit deep but worth the time"

    Quite a well researched anthology of technology, math, science and brains that pull it all together.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bob Tunkhannock, PA, United States 03-07-12
    Bob Tunkhannock, PA, United States 03-07-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    74
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    23
    13
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Where's the beef?"
    What did you like best about Turing's Cathedral? What did you like least?

    The narrator is good.


    What could George Dyson have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Reduced the biographical information about everone in the book. Especially the pointless trivia associated with relatives, houses,cars, boats, roads, pets, etc etc. A concise bio of each of the major players would have been enough to give a background. I am a quarter of the way through the book and have not heard anything significant on the subject matter as of yet. I keep skipping chapters to keep from falling asleep. Too many authors fluff out there books with these boring and irrelevant facts all intermingled with the limited subject matter. I am usually asleep when what few informative paragraphs are read.


    What does Arthur Morey bring to the story that you wouldn???t experience if you just read the book?

    Makes me feel like something about this purchase had some value.


    Could you see Turing's Cathedral being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    Everyone under the sun in every country of the world. AND their mothers!


    Any additional comments?

    Classify it as a biography. Or biographies.

    14 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-21-14
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-21-14 Member Since 2007

    Chet Yarbrough, an audio book addict, exercises two cocker spaniels twice a day with an Ipod in his pocket and earbuds in his ears. Hope these few reviews seduce the public into a similar obsession but walk safely and be aware of the unaware.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    581
    93
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Déjà vu"

    Reading the “New York Times”, Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 the front page of “Business Day” shows an article about Google called “Search and Replace”. In the same edition, there is an article by Shane Harris on the editorial page, “Giving In to the Surveillance State”. Both articles infer a dystopian future envisioned by Johnny Von Neumann and Alan Turing, the primary geniuses of the computer generation’s beginnings in the middle of the 20th century. "Turing's Cathedral", a history of computer science in the 1940s, is strikingly like the 2012 NYT's articles--“Déjà vu”.

    Near the end of George Dyson’s book, a chapter is written about the potential of a computer that can dream, based on an accumulation of all the world’s known publications, communications, and locations, to answer any question about the world that is known by the collective mind of man. Nils Aall Barricelli envisions world domination by artificial intelligence. The entry to that world is “Turing’s Cathedral”, a mansion of the entire world’s information that is being built to be occupied by a wired or wireless connection to human brains.

    “Turing’s Cathedral” seems to be more than a church of knowledge and mankind seems to be less than the soul of a machine.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 15 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
Sort by:
  • Ross
    Faversham, United Kingdom
    12/27/12
    Overall
    "Fascinating Listen"

    This was a fascinating book, telling the story of the first real computers constructed after WW2 and the intruiging personalities involved

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-1 of 1 results

    There are no listener reviews for this title yet.

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

CANCEL

Thank You

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.