Keynote Address: Jack Copeland

The 2016 Covey Award: Jack Copeland

Jack Copeland, “The Stored-Program Story: What Philosophy Taught History”

This lecture describes the early history of a fundamental ingredient of modern computing, the stored-program concept. An analysis of the contributions by Alan Turing, Konrad Zuse, F. C. Williams, Tom Kilburn, Presper Eckert, John Mauchly, Richard Clippinger and John von Neumann shows that the stored-program concept consisted of several distinct layers or ‘onion-skins’. These different onion-skins emerged slowly over a ten-year period, giving rise to a number of different programming paradigms. The ‘onion-skin analysis’ permits the resolution of various scholarly disagreements about the stored-program concept and its history.

The Covey Award recognizes senior scholars with a substantial record of innovative research in the field of computing and philosophy broadly conceived.

The IACAP Board is delighted to announce that Professor Jack Copeland will be presented with the Covey Award at IACAP 2016 in Ferrara, Italy, where he will present the Covey Award Keynote Address.

Jack Copeland FRS NZ is Distinguished Professor in Arts at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, where he is Director of the Turing Archive for the History of Computing. He is also Honorary Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Queensland, Australia, and in 2012 was Royden B. Davis Visiting Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Department of Psychology at Georgetown University, Washington DC. In 2013-14 he was Visiting Professor of Information Science at Copenhagen University. He co-directs the Turing Centre at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich.

A Londoner by birth, Jack earned a D.Phil. in mathematical logic from the University of Oxford, where he was a student of Turing’s great friend Robin Gandy.

His books include The Essential Turing (Oxford University Press), Colossus: The Secrets of Bletchley Park’s Codebreaking Computers (Oxford University Press), Alan Turing’s Electronic Brain (Oxford University Press), Computability: Turing, Gödel, Church, and Beyond (MIT Press), Logic and Reality (Oxford University Press), and Artificial Intelligence (Blackwell). He has published more than 100 journal articles on the philosophy and history of computing, and on mathematical and philosophical logic. Oxford University Press published his highly accessible paperback biography Turing in October last year. He is currently co-authoring a book on the philosophy and cognitive science of religion, to be published by Blackwell-Wiley in the US and UK in 2016, and his co-authored The Turing Guide will appear with Oxford University Press in 2016.

Jack has been script advisor, co-writer, and scientific consultant for a number of documentaries on Turing. One of these, the BBC’s Code-Breakers: Bletchley Park’s Lost Heroes, won two BAFTAs (British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards) in 2012, and was listed as one of the year’s three best historical documentaries at the 2013 Media Impact Awards in New York City. A European TV documentary about Turing for which he was script consultant and ‘talking head’ won the audience’s Best Documentary prize at the 2015 FIGRA European film festival, and the film was also selected to represent the European Arte TV channel in Tokyo at the 2015 annual international TV festival INPUT. His Stanford University Lecture ‘Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age’ has received more than 60,000 views on YouTube to date ( and his MIT lecture’Alan Turing: Codebreaker and AI Pioneer’ is ranked by iTunes as the No. 1 video web resource on Turing ( Jack received the Scientific American Sci/Tech Web Award for his on-line archive