The Ban and the Bit: Alan Turing, Claude Shannon, and the Entropy Measure

The origin of the term ‘entropy’, a measure of the quantity of information
within a signal.

Girl Meets Whiskey

Claude Shannon

I didn’t realize [Turing] was as important as he was.
— Claude Shannon1

In late 1945, as World War II was drawing to a close, John von Neumann began assembling a small group of engineers at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) at Princeton to design, build, and program an electronic digital computer. In the spring of that year, von Neumann had visited Los Alamos (specifically, the target selection committee of the Manhattan Project, the group responsible for choosing the first targets of the atomic bomb) to oversee computations related to the expected size of atomic bomb blasts, estimated death tolls, and the distance above the ground at which the bombs should be detonated for maximum effect (Rhodes, 1986). When von Neumann arrived at the IAS, his focus had shifted. “I am thinking about something much more important than bombs,” he remarked in 1946. “I am thinking about computers”…

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