Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Alan Turing to feature on new £50 note (bbc.co.uk)
664 points by hanoz 41 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 298 comments

Chuang Tzu with his bamboo pole was fishing in the Pu river. The prince of Chu sent two vice-chancellors with a formal document: We hereby appoint you prime minister.

Chuang Tzu held his bamboo pole still.Watching the Pu river, he said:“I am told there is a sacred tortoise offered and canonized three thousand years ago,venerated by the prince, wrapped in silk,in a precious shrine on an altar in the temple.

What do you think? Is it better to give up one’s life and leave a sacred shell as an object of cult in a cloud of incense for three thousand years,or to live as a plain turtle dragging its tail in the mud?”

“For the turtle”, said the vice-chancellor,“better to live and drag its tail in the mud!”

“Go home!”, said Chuang Tzu.“Leave me here to drag my tail in the mud.”

I think when someone see the new note, they will realize a terrible crime was committed by society based on whom he loved. They will leave that path of unrighteousness and follow the path of peace and understanding. So yes, it is useful.

How does this story apply? Turing has no life to live whether he is on the notes or not, and somebody will be put on them.

It would have been better for Turing if the government left him alone instead of chemically castrating him and driving him to suicide, then venerating him.

You do realize it’s a completely different government? Indeed, it’s a completely different population - the castrators are quite dead.

Unless inherited guilt is your thing.

It's not about guilt or justice. That's not the point. But, of course, you're wrong. It's not a "completely different government", unless you think you're a completely different person because most of the atoms in your body have been replaced by now since your birth.

I think he means that it is a completely different government, not because just the people it has changed, but because the ideals and morals it represents are completely different. And the people it represents are completely different. And the methods it uses are completely different. And the land it represents are completely different. And so forth. I don't know how much have to change in order for it to be a different government, but I would say that the last 60 years have completely changed it.

I would also prefer it if you would write down a bit more on why you are disagreeing with the first point and not just that you disagree, it doesn't seem very productive to me.

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, came to the Cloudflare London office opening party recently and he told me that it was entirely the Governor's discretion to choose who is on the bank notes. This was the first time the public had been solicited for ideas, and a committee had whittled the suggestions down to a short list.

Ultimately, Carney made this call. Thanks!

The article states that "In 2015, a total of 30,000 people nominated 590 famous visual artists for the £20 note, before JMW Turner was selected with the help of focus groups." so this doesn't appear to be the first time the public is involved.

Mark Carney is Canadian and was previously the governor of the Bank of Canada. We've been doing this sort of thing with our money for a long time now. Looks like he brought the tradition to England.

If you mean the tradition of choosing historical figures to feature on bank notes, rather than the tradition of boasting about it at office parties, we've been doing the former sort of thing a long time before Mark Carney's arrival. Probably the latter thing too.

No, I mean the tradition of having a public consultation of which historical figures to include on the currency.

When I saw the headline my first thought was JGC must have had something to do with this! Thank you for your efforts on behalf of Turing over the years.

Ha. I may have got the ball rolling 10 years ago (https://www.wired.com/2014/11/the-man-who-made-the-uk-say-im...) but I wasn't in any way directly involved in what happened after that.

Really shows how much impact one person can have if you just go out and make noise about something. Ideally supported by real data and a legitimately interesting story.

Alan Turing is a good choice. There were many good candidates on the shortlist (Paul Dirac, Rosalind Franklin, Dorothy Hodgkin, Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, James Clerk Maxwell, etc) that hopefully get their day.

I will say Stephen Hawking absolutely deserves it, one day, but I feel like the notable person should be dead for a certain period before we throw them on currency (certainly longer than a year). Conceptually I like the "50 year rule." Helps mitigate populism or overly politicizing it.

That results in the Queen (or King) being a remark on today, and the Scientist or other note-worthy contributor being a remark on our history (and values?).

I totally agree with you. This is sad news for Stephen Hawking though because I'd be surprised if we still had physical cash in 50 years time.

I _really_ hope you're wrong.

The wheels are already in motion. It's been that way for decades now. Look around you. The banks will start pushing even harder to get rid of physical currency soon. Except strong discouragement. You already can't do many things with physical currency. Like downloading music or films. This list will just keep growing until eventually physical currency just won't be accepted in most places. This is perfect for the banks.

I don't even carry cash around with me anymore everything is touch and go card payments which is really convenient.

There are some down sides though in that now banks know exactly what you are spending your money on and stores are now facing increasing terminal fees from these transactions ( in Australia anyway).

Dude where do you live or what kind of bubble do you surround yourself with? I can tell you that cash is still the king in Europe in many places. I don't mean the usual boring cycle of commute-work-lunch-work-bar/restaurant/cinema/shopping/etc., that obviously can be covered by card. But stepping outside of this, many places are cash-only. Small entrance fees, food stalls on the side of the road, ice cream shop etc. My car garage not doing credit-card payment for god knows why reason. Yes you can somehow get by and exist, but depriving yourself of many small and often wonderful experiences. Few banknotes don't take any space/weight anyway.

Just to be clear - we talk about 2nd biggest city in Switzerland and life in and around it.

>My car garage not doing credit-card payment for god knows why reason.

Tax evasion, avoiding deal with chargebacks, and not having to pay merchant account fees. However, those fees are nearly zero for debit card accounts, and chargebacks are pretty much non existent with Chip + Pin (or Apple Pay or EMV), so I would most likely guess tax evasion. I've been to many restaurants that offer 10% discounts for cash payments, versus card, which works perfectly as they get a portion of the sale on the record for plausible deniability, and a portion off the record.

I very rarely carry cash now. Very occasionally you get a place which is cash only, but in London at least there are vastly more places which are card only (small stalls etc which have a iPad EPOS and a card reader, which avoids the need to worry about cash being counted/stolen/paid into the bank).

I think this is _really_ regional. Lots of places in Germany don't take cards. Virtually everywhere in Ireland takes cards now (for small places via mobile phone gadgets). Some places in Sweden don't take cash.

Dude, In which bubble do you live?;-) In the netherlands, (maestro) card payments are king. Currently in Denmark and last week in Sweden: (maestro) card payments. And in Sweden apps like Swish are really popular as well. (Pay to a phone number).

Granted: germany and france are a bit behind in this.

France may be behind, but Germany is consciously choosing to keep using cash. By the way, the Dutch central bank has also said that cash should remain.

Chiming in from Canada. Tap to pay is mostly ubiquitous here. You will find the odd fresh fruit/vegetable stand that doesn't at least have something like Square set up, but that is the exception. I only have cash on me if someone happens to repay me in cash.

In London, food stalls by the side of the road generally use wireless or USB-powered contactless gadgets, connected to phones via bluetooth, to take payment.

My local Turkish grill has not only started taking cards, but has signed up to some kind of healthy eating wheeze:


This country isn't what it used to be.

If you are really in Europe, you should know better than to generalize across 44 countries.

In the UK most of these smaller places got card machines with the rollout of contactless (which has lower fees), there are still some places that only accept cash, but it's not many anymore.

> Like downloading music or films.

I mean, it's understandable that you don't want to be mailing banknotes to Google Play to get your copy of Despacito, but you can definitely buy credit with Google Play in cash (at least in Canada and the U.S.).

Amazon, Apple, and a handful of others are much the same.

Outside of the Western world it is common that when you order something online you can go to a bank or other place that has a reverse-atm (sort of) where you can pay for the order with the code you got in the email / webpage by inserting cash into the machine.

This is often found in countries that don't have proper online payment infrastructures.

Yes. In Indonesia, for example, less than 3% of the population have credit cards, yet online shopping is extremely popular, with many payment options (reverse ATM, as you describe, or paying at one of the ubiquitous Indomaret or Circle K convenience stores, and so on).

Steam actaully offers 'cash on delivery' for games through their Indian payment partner. The payment provider will send someone to your house who will collect the cash payment and log it in their dashboard, which will trigger it being activated for download in your library.

You can buy Google Play credits, iTunes cards, Netflix cards in convenience stores in Norway. With cash.

The only problem is that those top-up cards, as they are known, might be hard-locked to the EU region. Those gift cards tend to be region specific. I don't mean to spam but maybe European cards don't work in Cincinnati so to speak. Don't spend more than you can afford to immediately lose abroad. These Americans need a dictionary for everything, and that's why we love them. Imagine if the British imperial loss over in USA, was a British intelligence job. Owning you for decades you poor Americans.

Edit: typo Fixed

We wouldn't want to restage the tea party or baton Rogue fight over some ten dollar cards.

From a government or bank's point of view, I can see the incentives for phasing out physical currency.

But for a common person, there are definitely uses:

* Tipping, when you don't want your server to have to report the tip as taxable income

* Buying/selling in places without reliable internet service

* Buying/selling illegal items

* Certain types of bars, etc. where it's logistically easier to use cash than handle a card + tipping on a receipt

* Training yourself to be more frugal by restricting yourself to cash for shopping / eating, where the shock factor of "look how much I'm spending!" is more visceral

* Giving to the visibly homeless

* Buying lemonade from kids

Also, I just like paying in cash sometimes. I'm hoping that the practical uses of it would create enough public outcry if banks/governments ever tried to phase it out.

Few notes:

>Tipping, when you don't want your server to have to report the tip as taxable income; Certain types of bars, etc. where it's logistically easier to use cash than handle a card + tipping on a receipt

The 1st option is clear tax evasion. Tipping is quite unpopular in Europe. When I tip I just leave a note after paying by card and that's that. Cards are immensely better when it comes to bars, restaurants, etc. (Actually they are better in almost any regard as losing them is rather fine, just get a new one from the bank)

>Buying/selling in places without reliable internet service

I can't think of a place w/o mobile internet, even mountain treks have decent internet.

>I can't think of a place w/o mobile internet, even mountain treks have decent internet.

I'm not sure where you are located, but in the US there are still quite many rural areas without cell service, even in the areas fairly close to major metropolitan areas. I can drive two hours from NYC and find entire towns that have no service.

I also just got back from a two week trip around the UK, where I expected better coverage but actually found I regularly had no cell service (on the biggest mobile carrier) in the countryside, including in the center of some villages.

Note that if you were using your American phone, it's likely it does not support all bands used by UK telcos (especially since LTE became a thing, true worldphones aren't really a thing anymore). I was amazed at how terrible the phone signal was in San Francisco last time I was there, until I realised that my (European) phone only supported one of the LTE bands used in the US.

Agreed. In some Canadian provinces, tipping is taxed. There is even a "minimum assumed tip" by the government, so restaurants can't declare having received $0. It's draconian, but it's a sector that has been caught again and again doing systemic tax evasion.

Payment terminals have a tip $ or % option, which is more convenient than pen and paper which we often still see in the US.

Unless it's a low-end restaurant, most restaurants in Canadian big cities pay well. There are huge staff shortages and lots of turnover because it's an exhausting and difficult job.

re:Europe and Internet: Bavaria has pretty terrible service outside of towns.

>re:Europe and Internet: Bavaria has pretty terrible service outside of towns.

True that. Last year I went on a trip through and there were times the internet was proper bad GPRS (edge), still enough for map navigation. However, I cant recall areas w/o any service at all. GPRS is enough for bank card services.

As someone mentioned - if you use a NA based phone, you might lack a full support in Europe for LTE

> I can't think of a place w/o mobile internet, even mountain treks have decent internet.

I went to a wedding in Ireland two years ago, and we didn't have a data connection for most of the weekend. We didn't even have a reliable _phone_ connection most of the time (Best Man forgot his cuff links, and it took three phones before we found someone with a signal, and even then that was patchy).

Using Google Fi and driving through rural Michigan, it's not too uncommon for me to enter an area without service.

>The 1st option is clear tax evasion.

Yes, and?

>I can't think of a place w/o mobile internet

There are dead zones all over the rural east coast. I can imagine other parts of the country are even worse.

>Yes, and?

So the argument is the cash existence is providing support for tax evasion?

Yes. Are you not a fan of tax evasion?

Edit: To be clear, I am not against taxation as a concept. However I do have issue with the American tax code and the atrocities committed with its revenue, so I am not morally opposed to helping other members of the middle-class avoid paying taxes on all of their income.

> I can't think of a place w/o mobile internet, even mountain treks have decent internet.

That was rather funny, had a good laugh at that...

Bars that don't take card nowadays are often a bit shady. Especially those in busy city/town centres.

Willing to bet not all of that money is declared to Mr Tax Man.

> Giving to the visibly homeless

There are already homeless people carrying QR codes to accept digital donations, I assume a lemonade stand could do something similar...

> ...QR codes to accept digital donations

Any idea what service that is through? Do people that are donating need to download an app, or just go to website or...?

I've never come across this

Why would a common person want to help their fellow citizen evade taxes?

Because I don't think someone waiting tables should have to sacrifice a chunk of their income to fund the American military-industrial complex.

Is it specifically people that wait tables, or do you support no taxes for all for their first $x in income?

The latter.

If tax evasion were not incredibly common among the wealthy, and if fewer of our tax dollars were used to create war, subsidize big business, etc., I'd be less inclined to feel this way.

Maybe, but having previously worked for a company that makes physical money, it's a healthy business they are in. There is more cash being printed now than ever before, the second derivative on the the amount of cash over time (d2Cash/dt2) is definitely positive.

My personal opinion is that there will always be a need for physical analog money. The power goes out in Puerto Rico (hurricanes) and Manhattan (ConEdison) sometimes (just recapping the stories covered on NPR during my drive to work this morning).

Is this really true? At least in the US, I do not think the amount of cash (M0) is accelerating. Unless my reading of this is completely wrong: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/BASE That said the recession really throws this off.

> ...the second derivative on the the amount of cash over time (d2Cash/dt2) is definitely positive.

That's very interesting. I wouldn't be surprised if the volume of physical cash is growing with a growing economy, but the fact that it's accelerating is unexpected. Do you have any links to learn more about this?

> There is more cash being printed now than ever before, the second derivative on the the amount of cash over time (d2Cash/dt2) is definitely positive.

Is inflation speeding up, or are notes just retired more often?

Except that Mark Carney has said very publicly that he sees absolutely no chance of physical cash going away.

I wonder what Mark Carney would have said if you'd asked him in 1990 whether shops were going to go away because people would be buying (practically) everything on a phone in people's pocket which could communicate with literally every else's phone in their pocket anywhere in the world instantly? And what about cryptocurrencies. People are rubbish at predicting the future.

Whether or not people's virtual cash valuation is going to continue to be represented by numbers on bits of paper and metal as opposed to numbers on computer databases seems like a yet more subtle idea to fail to fully grasp at the moment.

Shops aren't going away in all history to come and go. Some people and some cultures moreso actually understand what in life matters and some items will forever need physical fitting, thankfully for our raw three-dimensional reality. Cash won't ever be erased from Earth's surface not in a thousand reincarnarions, mark those words on the outer layers of your soul.

It will be like paper maps and stamps, available yet only used by old people who grew up with it.

For hiking tours, a printed map is way more comfortable for people to gather around and discuss the way. And it does not drain batterie ...

but a printed map is battered by the rain

Most of my hiking maps are printed on Tyvek or the equivalent.

And in any case a map is a piece of safety equipment - you spec if for the worst case scenario.

Classical paper maps yes. I manage to trash them after one hike even without rain.

But nowdays you get them coated in a plastic layer ... very nice, water proof and durable.

edit: or like the othe commenter mentioned, it is not a plastic layer and rather plastic itself called Tyvek or similar

Map holders are a thing

Well this old person has had to donate my backup paper maps to people whose phones were out of charge or who had no map at all and wanted to know where they were.

NB When in Scottish mountains I take:

- An iPhone with offline OS maps

- An external battery for my iPhone and cable

- A paper OS map in a waterproof map case

- A printed A4 backup of an OS map in a plastic bag that I can give to others or to use if other maps become unusable (e.g. blown away - which has happened)

80% of the time I just use the iPhone - still have to use OS map and compass occasionally when things are particularly exciting.

Nobody expects cash to vanish in the foreseeable timescale - but who knows what the situation will be in 30-50 years time? Credit cards as we know them today are barely that old.

And with each series of UK banknote in circulation for ~14 years, planning to put someone on a note in 4 series time is pretty forward-looking :)

30-50 years ago people still used shillings!

They'd probably keep it for old times sake and history even if it isn't used much.

Anecodatal but: In London there are already multiple shops/restaurants/bars that no longer accept cash.

I bought a falafel wrap from a basic market stall the other day in London and they didn’t take cash at all. Makes sense- less germs, less chance of robbery, easier accounts, better chance of adhering to tax laws, and better convenience to me as a customer.

"better chance of adhering to tax laws" That wouldn't be seen as an upside for the majority of small traders I've known.

Plus its only convenient because you had the payment method they accepted.

I've seen the same in Amsterdam, but I believe it's important to understand why they do that.

According to additional anecdotal evidence, no cash what so ever is their way of reducing the odds of a burglary. Within myriads of shops, one shop that doesn't offer cash payments is way less likely to be broken into.

A little off topic but interesting point: In America restaurants must take cash but stores don’t. This is because once you’ve eaten you now owe a debt and cash must be accepted as payment for debts, as required by law. But if you are buying something you don’t have a debt yet, so they are free to turn you down.

One way to get around this would be to eat your candy bar or whatever in the store. Now they must take your cash, or accept not getting paid I guess.

> One way to get around this would be to eat your candy bar or whatever in the store.

That would be theft or criminal damage.

I know people who regularly eaten or drank a store's product while shopping and then scanned the empty container at the cash register. Never heard of anyone having a problem with that.

Just becomes some people get away with it doesn't make the practice okay. As the owner of a larger store where you're dealing with random people, you're not going to do very well if you have a policy of "you can use whatever you want and then pay for it later". Why is why none of them do, and I would have never thought that something so common sense would need to be made explicit when you enter a store.

That’s exactly how restaurants work. What’s different about stores?

As an aside, I eat things at stores all the time. Grocery stores, convenience store, whatever. No one has ever said anything to me and no one cares.

Also I drink all the time at bars and pay at the end. The idea of “tab” is very very old, and it seems to work pretty well.

When I was a kid and my mom took me shoe shopping, I would always wear my shoes out of the store. Most other kids do the same things. And you pay at the end, not before!

Have you considered this is just some personal hang up you have and not representative of other people?

And you’re talking about common sense, but I don’t know where you live, but in America it’s very very common to eat in stores. Parents give their kid a candy bar and eat it. This happens all the time.

Honestly, what you’re saying sounds a little crazy.

Restaurants and bars are not comparable, as they are customarily paid after the meal. Also, there is one to one customer service there so someone is keeping an eye on you, as opposed to a large retail establishment.

And the idea of tabs doesn't apply to my comment since I excluded out situations where the customer's credibility is known by the store employees. I live in America, and while I haven't paid attention, I don't notice people using what they're buying before they have bought it.

The common sense is that what if someone comes into your store who can't afford to pay for what they have consumed? Do you think Walmart and Target and grocery stores can afford to make it official policy to let people consume before they buy and not suffer losses from people who toss the wrapper or empty bottle in an aisle somewhere? Or can't afford to pay?

It works if it's a small place and you trust everyone, but once you scale up, I don't see how it works.

Because of social norms? I don't need to pay for a candy bar if I eat it, but I do, because that's just what I do. There's so much trust in almost every society that what you're talking about just doesn't happen very often.

Every person has many opportunities to steal pretty much all the time without consequence, and yet, they don't.

Have you ever heard of someone bringing up a candy bar wrapper or empty drink container to the cashier and suffering any consequence? Even criticism?

As far as I can tell stores have a policy they just don't tell the customers about.

Yes, I have, which is why I know it's sometimes (BUT NOT ALWAYS) treated as theft or criminal damage. In England.

Weird. Why punish people who are attempting to pay? Seems like a self-defeating move.

This is the reason why fast-food restaurants are always prepaid. A regular restaurant could also require you to pay for the most expensive combination up front and then pay the difference back.

Do you have a source for this? Beyond the print on the back of dollar bills, that is?

Saw that recently in Copenhagen also.

It's only allowed in certain circumstances, although I don't know how well that's enforced -- some places are just very reluctant to take cash.


> It's been that way for decades now.

Given the glacial rate of change in the direction that the actors involve favor that indicates, that's not really an argument for the cash will be gone in 50 years argument so much as one against it.

I sold something online and was paid in cash a week ago. Since then I've tried paying with that cash in three places, all of them told me sorry, they don't take cash. This is in Copenhagen.

I would have expected there to be some kind of law against the refusal of a country's own currency's cash as form of payment in any transaction. Shouldn't a government ensure that its currency is always a valid/accepted form of payment within its borders?

Broadly speaking, in most countries you're always required to accept legal tender for debts, but for up-front transactions you can limit what you accept to whatever you want, whether that be credit cards or live chickens.

NYC, and other cities, have outlawed or are moving to outlaw cashless stores.


> told me sorry, they don't take cash.

Such contrast, you will not hear this anywhere in India. (Reverse is quite regular)

I can't reliably search in Danish, but unless you're only spending the money at night, I think that's illegal.


No worries. After the period of "cashlessness", who knows? There might be some special material that can be a physical representation of digital currency, that can probably be modifiable remotely in value or appearance, which leads to the resurgence.

Tangem cards with a color eink display? Sounds about right.


Why do you want to preserve the exchange of little bits of paper that are merely currently difficult to counterfeit (and often still are), can burn up or get lost, can get easily stolen, wear down over time, take up space, and can be confiscated by unjust governments when their citizens try to flee? (Or in one case I worked around via cryptocurrency, when the government takes a 50% cut of all incoming donations?)

Of all the expected paper eliminations to come, this is possibly the most important one... and the most important one to get right.

(Why am I getting downvoted?)

We'll still have physical cash, it might be as useful as sovereigns and other 'collectible' coins the royal mint produces though. But then when was the last time you saw a £50 note?

My currency is worth four times less than that but the last time I dealt with 50 bills was everyday since going bankrupt and out of the system.

Sorry to hear that.

What are your thoughts on a cashless society, given your experience.

It sucks to have no banking service but since I barely have coin to spend anyway I adapted well. What I feel after accomodating lifestyle changes is liberation both in being out of the financial and the societal consumption values systems. I wish I could never use banking again, only pure dirty cash bills but it's nigh impossible to truly eschew the convenience and access of an international online purchase mediated by family and a credit card.

Last time I won a poker tournament :-)

Don't worry, i'm sure someone will make a Hawking Coin.

ESA has named their newest mars rover after Rosalind Franklin, a good start.

Oh man, I totally forgot Stephen Hawking died until you reminded me. :(

Stephen Hawking would not be a good choice. He wasn't a major force in saving a whole nation, and he had hateful, controversial political opinions.

Alan Turing was truly a great man.

I would love to know what hateful opinions Stephen Hawking held?

Winston Churchill is on the £5 and he was and is controversial. Controversial in India, the Liberal party, the Conservative party, the Liberal party.

what were his hateful political opinions?

> he had hateful, controversial political opinions.

Could you point me towards some more info please, I was entirely unaware of this.

The £50 note was described (...) as the "currency of corrupt elites, of crime of all sorts and of tax evasion".

I recently dealt with a 1000 CHF (= £811 = $1018) banknote in Switzerland. It's not very commonly used, but it exists.

Although not commonly used, it seems the Swiss do not have such skepticism of high-value notes.

I would routinely pay for things (groceries, electronics, etc.) with 100CHF and 200CHF notes without the cashiers batting an eye, while I used the 1000CHF note once or twice for large purchases.

A Swiss friend of mine (who granted is a little old fashioned) said he would use them to pay bills for his business and would often use 10x 1000CHF notes for a monthly bill.

Another interesting point around the money laundering aspects, he was talking with one of the central bankers and it was now considered unpalatable to introduce any bigger sized notes. My friend's point was that when the 1000CHF note was introduced in the early 1900s, adjusting for inflation it was worth a lot lot more.

Down payments with 1000s on big things like cars is very much accepted here.

Where's here?

Switzerland. They’re talking about 1000 CHF (Swiss Franc) notes.

In Russia banks love giving out 500 euro notes when you exchange rubles to euros, the problem is most places in Europe don't accept 500 euro notes for payment, even for sums that are more than 500 euro (such as paying for hotel stay). From what I heard even most banks won't accept them unless you have an account, so they're totally useless to bring for a euro trip.

In NL both €200 and €500 are almost universally rejected.

As far as I'm aware, here in DE they have to take such large notes as long as it's proportionate to the sum owed. Coincidentally, Germans do love their paper money more than most.

Yep. I was a bit annoyed that Scandinavian countries go cashless, but I was caught a few times in restaurants in Germany that didn't accept credit cards. On short trips, I never bother carrying cash.

Awesome recognition! I just wish people weren't such dicks to Turing in his lifetime.

I feel like people would still react negatively to a 40-something picking up unknown teens (19, in the one case I know the details of) for casual sex? Particularly if that person were considered a security risk?

People [wrongly] get called a paedophile for such behaviour and get pilloried in the social press.

Aside: it always seemed like the simplest explanation for the strangeness around his arrest was that he was compromised (in the national security sense).

Of course none of that relates to his fantastic achievements in computing.

Fry (Christian fundamentalist) and Newton ( Christian fundamentalist writer) -- both of whom have been on bank notes -- probably wouldn't fair well in the court of public opinion nowadays either. Not sure Churchill would make it on anymore either tbh.

> I feel like people would still react negatively to a 40-something picking up unknown teens (19, in the one case I know the details of) for casual sex?

You can call it whatever you'd like, but this isn't illegal today.

And indeed it wasn't illegal in 50s England either (in a heterosexual context).

>People [wrongly] get called a paedophile for such behaviour and get pilloried in the social press.

I've never seen anyone being accused of being a paedophile for having sex with a 19-year-old. Do you have an example? This frankly seems like a backhanded slur on Turing.

> Not sure Churchill would make it on anymore either tbh.

Churchill was added to a bank note a mere three years ago.

Newton's thinking was not broadly acceptable to Christians in his day either. He was a Unitarian! He specifically didn't believe in the Trinitarian understanding of God that had already been essential to mainstream Christianity for centuries by that point.

Churchill was a drinker. There's plenty of evidence into the 21st century that functioning alcoholics are able to maintain status in most walks of life including politics. Or were you thinking of something else?

It was specifically the publicising of his role in the Bengal famine that was my primary motivation to contend that Churchill's character is no longer - since the last couple of years even - held quite so highly.

Dresden is a much trickier call AFAIK, I don't think this is used widely as an indication of Churchill being morally deficient.

I don't think GP is referring to Churchill's drinking. Instead I think it is more so about his crassness and racist tendencies.

Fascinating, alas in the timeline I live on all the headlines are about the crass racist in the White House or the one about to take residence in 10 Downing Street. In fact the latter explicitly models himself on Churchill. Still, I applaud the cultured people of GGP's timeline for their wokeness.

Yes, but I should hope that neither country is about to put Trump or Johnson on a bank note! To me, being worthy of becoming a symbolic role model requires very different virtues than being someone I would vote for, and I say this as someone who wouldn't vote for either Trump or Johnson.

> Not sure Churchill would make it on anymore either tbh.

Churchill was added to the note quite recently. Unfortunately, most British people seem to have a nearly uniformly positive opinion of Churchill, despite the unconscionable atrocities he committed.

It was indeed Churchill's role in "trouble" abroad (that's a characteristic British euphemistic underplay). Which has only recently become an issue that's openly been discussed in the UK media AFAIAA.

Churchill did more good than bad.

Worth reading some of his views though:


+1 It breaks my heart when I think about what they did to him.

It might make you feel better to know that he was convicted under the age of consent law, which was 21 at the time. (The kid was 19.) It wasn't entirely fair because they made the age of consent higher for gays (edit: I had it wrong, the age of majority was 21 in all cases), but at least he wasn't convicted purely for being gay. The teenager was not punished.

> (edit: I had it wrong, the age of majority was 21 in all cases)

No, you're still wrong -- and spreading an awful lot of misinformation in this thread. The age of consent for straight sex was 17 when Turing was convicted. There was no "age of consent" for gay sex as gay sex was illegal at the time. When gay sex was legalized in 1967 (long after Turing was convicted), the age of consent was set to 21 for gay sex and remained at 17 for straight sex. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_consent_reform_in_the_U...

It's so easy to find this stuff out that I have to wonder if you have some kind of agenda here.

> It's so easy to find this stuff out that I have to wonder if you have some kind of agenda here.

I don't wonder at all!

The 19-year-old was in fact charged, pled guilty and "Bound over to be of good behaviour for Twelve Months".

Do you have a source for that? I'd never heard that, and it doesn't fit with everything I have read about Turing. According to most articles I find in a quick search, they say he was convicted for "Gross indecency" because homosexuality was illegal at that time.


It says 19 on his Wikipedia page.


This says his conviction was in 1952.


This page says the age of majority was actually 21 for both genders until 1970. So, I had it wrong, Turing would also have been considered as having a relationship with a minor if he had been with a 19 year old girl. Supposedly the actual law he was convicted under was written in a very vauge way due to "Victorian morals" (Wikipedia), and he was convicted under "Gross indecency" without much description.

Umm, I think you're getting this wrong. First of all, you are literally arguing against what literally every biography of Turing says (that he was convicted for engaging in homosexual acts).

But if you want to quote the Wiki articles, that's fine, but it seems like you're missing the most important parts:

From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing (emphasis mine):

> During the investigation, he acknowledged a sexual relationship with Murray. Homosexual acts were criminal offences in the United Kingdom at that time,[131] and both men were charged with "gross indecency" under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885.[132] Initial committal proceedings for the trial were held on 27 February during which Turing's solicitor "reserved his defence", i.e., did not argue or provide evidence against the allegations.

The above flat-out contradicts what you are saying.

Just in case, here's what the Section 11 of the Criminal Law act says https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_Law_Amendment_Act_188...:

> The clause provided for a term of imprisonment "not exceeding two years", with or without hard labour, for any man found guilty of gross indecency with another male, whether "in public or in private". No definition was given of what, exactly, constituted "gross indecency", as Victorian morality demurred from giving precise descriptions of activity considered immoral. In practice, "gross indecency" was widely interpreted as any male homosexual behaviour short of actual sodomy, which remained a more serious and separate crime.

Nowhere in any of the above does it say anything about him being arrested or convicted because his partner wasn't at the age of majority, and all of the above say that it was for homosexual acts.

This doesn't contract those biographies, it adds an additional detail. I guess to really know whether it was a significant detail you'd have to be an expert in 1950s British law. Maybe someone can find the judge's verdict, if he wrote one.



Note that both Turing and Murray were charged with the same crimes, though which of them was charged with 'committing the act' and 'being party to the commission of the act' changes from date to date.

> This page says the age of majority was actually 21 for both genders until 1970

For heterosexual sex. It wasn't until the Sexual Offences Act in 1967 that male homosexual sex was legal at all:


And even then, it was only in your own home, England and Wales, and groups of two. The law wasn't brought into full equivalence with the law for heterosexual sex until 2001:


2001! Fucking 2001! What is wrong with this country?

I can't say castrating someone for doing it with a 19 year old at 21 is really any better.

For the benefit of some below, the design shown in the news article is only a concept image [1]. The final design will be revealed nearer the time the new note is issued.

[1] https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/news/2019/july/50-pound-bank...

Oh, good! :) because the white glow looks like a really bad photoshop cutout job ...

It’s cool, but the circulation for these notes is really low - I only ever used to see £50 notes when working in a shop that sold timber to builders!

Perhaps shows the state of Britain's economy/relative worth compared to the rest of the world, since I used them (true, only occassionally) late 90s/early 2000's, but they must be worth much much less now, due to inflation, not to mention that referendum thing. It's not because prices are low in Britain aka Treasure-Island, that's for sure!

$100 bills are more than common, for example, and similar (actually quite a bit more) in value.

Where would you even get a £50 note from? I've never seen a cash machine dispense them.

The cash machines at the Barclays at 67 Grand Parade, Green Lanes, Harringay do, or at least did recently. I'm not entirely sure why. The local shopkeepers are fortunately unfazed by them.

That's just what I'm saying though - if £50 ($65?) is still considered excessive value for a single note, it's perhaps a reflection on the relative wealth of Britons. I'm British but have been expatriated since early 2000s

Alternatively it can be a shift to cashless transactions for a bit larger sums.

No, we would usually take/be given a stack of twenties. If it’s too much to be in that then it would be a cheque or bank transfer. We’ve paid most handymen recently by agreeing to transfer money later.

Still used a lot in casinos, poker tables especially

A bank, I guess, if you can find one...

A large bank will give you one but I'm guessing the smaller branches don't bother holding £50 notes given that no one uses them for retail banking at least

Small branches absolutely have £50 notes.

They're really not that rare, about 9% of all notes in circulation, or 25% of the total value in circulation.


Well deserved. War hero (possibly the greatest of the war) & science hero of the highest order. Mistreated terribly by the state for his efforts.

Hate to be that guy, but the Great War is WWI

oops, fixed

On a point of technicality - he was only two years old when the Great War started! (I think you meant the 2nd World War)

A bit off-topic: last time I tried to use a 50 GBP note in London I got strange looks and it was refused. Apparently anything beyond a 20 GBP note is seen as "too high". A worrying turn of events…

I think this is true in most countries now, in that ATMs are more and more designed to just spit out a single denomination, which raises the statistical likelihood that any larger denomination note could be counterfeit.

Some shops will do extra verification, such as rubbing it against paper to ensure the ink comes off, and use a UV light to see the hidden symbols. Even though it might be legal tender, sadly there's no obligation to accept it. Just as they might refuse Pokemon cards as payment too. https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/knowledgebank/what-is-legal-...

Wait for a few months after Oct 31st, then it should be fine.

The table on the mock-up banknote shows a fragment of a Turing Machine, taken from his paper introducing TMs (https://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/Turing_Paper_1936.pdf#pa...). Unfortunately, the chosen fragment is just used by Turing to establish notation and is otherwise meaningless. I hope in the final version they use better formulas, for example from the construction of the universal machine.

The more surprising thing is that they are making a new £50 note at all. I haven't seen one in a very long time and many shops don't even accept them any more.

That's interesting. In Germany I might get a strange look if I pay for my coffee with a 50€ bill but it's usually accepted unless they actually don't have enough change. It's certainly no problem at a supermarket, even paid with 100€ bill a few times (because there is this stupid ATM near my workplace that doesn't ask which bills I want and just gives me 100 if I chose that amount and I forget almost every time). Judging from other comments here it seems outside London you really have trouble paying with that 50£ bill. I have seen one supermarket had a sign up saying they don't accept 200€ bills so far.

I'm curious about other countries now because I never really gave that a thought. I was surprised though when I was in China for the first time and learned the largest one is 100rmb which was around 10€ at that point. It's now more like 15€ and China is rapidly changing to a completely cashless society anyways but it was really weird back then; since using the ATM included a fee, you would get like 4000 bucks at once (depending on how long you stayed) and run around with 40 bills in your pocket.

I find travelling to Germany a nightmare for cash.

In the U.K. it’s almost at the point of being cashless - indeed I ate at a restaurant on Saturday night which didn’t accept cash.

In Germany it’s like going back to the UK in the early 90s in that regard. Charges to withdraw money from ATMs, the newly built canteen at the office of a large experiment doesn’t accept card, but also wouldn’t take a €50, which was also what the ATM gave me!

I live in Germany and the problem is, people (cashiers) still haven't understood that they don't have to pay a minimum fixed amount (like €2) to the bank, like you have to do with Visa. That's why shops require you purchase stuff for usually at least €10 or look at you weirdly if you want to pay by card for a €2 hamburger at McDonalds. Which of course makes no sense, because they have to pay a percentage, not a fixed amount.

It's frustrating.

(Paying a fixed amount to the bank was a thing in Germany like 10 or 20 years ago.)

> I find travelling to Germany a nightmare for cash.

Can't be said enough, cash is king in Germany. Go north or east (Poland not so much but Lithuania+) and cash is only useful for tips.

In Spain is strange to pay with a bill of more than 50€ in regular places, maybe big super markets would accept them, but no in small shops (or I don't see them at least).

That just depends where you live and work.

In a part of London with many tourists, I saw them used by people ahead of me in the queue daily. There are some cash machines somewhere in London that dispense them -- possibly in Canary Wharf, I forget.

Conversely, I don't think I've seen a cash machine with fivers.

https://imgur.com/a/sJu9y (cash machine showing it has £20s and £50s).

You'll generally see cash machines with fivers in the poorer parts of the UK.

Also around Universities in my experience.

People on Reddit wanted him on the £10 notes instead.

Makes sense to have ones and zeros for the father of electric computers...

Good choice of Alan, but what a trainwreck of the design and the typography. Ugly as hell.

Pretty sure this is only a mockup — the note itself won't be out until the end of 2021.

I remember seeing a preview of the redesigned £5/£10 notes a few years ago and thinking exactly the same thing — seeing Trebuchet MS on a bank note was a bit of a surprise, but thankfully the end result looked far better.

Isn’t this unusual for British tradition? If I understood correctly, the bank notes are issued under the authority and guarantee of monarch which is why they carry her picture. This applies to any country which has also accepted her as their queen as well (Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc). It is being said that the queen doesn’t carry passport or banknotes because both are issues under her name. So there is big symbolism there which will be gone?

The Queen is on the other side of the note.

As others have mentioned, it's quite normal to have the queen on the front of the note, and some other historical figure on the back. As far as i can tell, this started in 1970, with a £20 note with William Shakespeare on it:


It really isn't that unusual. The five pound note for example has Churchill on one side and the Queen on the other.

It’s said she carries cash. She gives money to the collection plate at Sandringhams church at Christmas.

The last time I saw a £50 note was in about 1997. I pay with cash a lot. I think it's fair to say they don't get used all that much.

Why would you receive a £50 paying in cash?

There’s larger note for which you could be receiving it as change.

If they pay for lots of things in cash, they must also receive lots of cash somehow. Otherwise they’ll be out of cash pretty quick!

Cash machines don’t often dispense 50s though, so unless they’re going into a branch they would never encounter one.

I know people who get out their cash for the month from a branch and do get 50s.

If I recall correctly it was when I was a bartender and someone paid using one.

Given the hostile stares of disgust and suspicion that result from trying to pay for anything with a £50 note, the tragic irony that it will now be adorned by the face of a man who suffered homophobic discrimination is not lost on me.

For context, the £50 note is worth around 63 USD.

(Used to be around $80 a few years ago. Thanks Brexit!)

Do you know if the bank sells new notes specifically to collectors? I'd love to buy one of these if I can get one that is in great shape.

> I'd love to buy one of these if I can get one that is in great shape.

What you want, IIRC, is known as an "uncirculated proof note" - at least, that's what I know it as when it comes to US currency.

They are fairly easy to get from the US Treasury, I believe - as they will typically sell low-denomination proof sets (with coins too) as "collectibles". Whether other countries do the same or not, I am not sure.

If you go to the Bank of England's website:


There's a contact link at the top - I believe they are the organization that releases Britain's currency, so I would contact them to find out how you can obtain such an uncirculated note.

Indeed, I want to do the same, and that's where I plan to start. Hopefully, we can get it for the face value (about $63.00 USD at current exchange rates), plus maybe a tad more for shipping, handling, it being uncirculated, etc. I'm expecting - well, hoping - to not pay more than $100.00 USD for the note.

Seems a bit crazy, but then again, I've paid a lot of real money for a fake money note (it was something shot out as "confetti" into the crowd of a concert, and it was in great condition - I never went to that concert because I didn't know the band then - plus I doubt I would have been in the pit where those notes landed - price and danger (mosh) would have deterred my older self).

I emailed the bank and they replied that they do not sell notes to collectors. They go into circulation.

There might be a nice little side-business for somebody that wants to get fresh new notes and sell them to people like us.

In the US, you could just walk into any bank and ask. I’ve done it before with other notes. Bring 50 quid with you if it’s not your bank. If you’re getting it right when it comes out, it will almost certainly be uncirculated. Go at a quieter time (not a Friday or first bank day after the 1st or 15th).

So you're saying I could walk into Bank of America, say I wanted the current 50 pound British note in proof condition, pay the current exchange rate ($63.00 USD currently), and walk out with one that same day?

Doesn't seem possible.

I mean - could you potentially get 50 pounds worth of physical British currency at the current exchange rate from a US bank? Certainly - but it won't be proof condition - not by a longshot.

I think if you wanted proof condition (uncirculated) for any note, you have to contact the treasury of that country - which I believe (and correct me if I am wrong) for the 50 pound note, is going to be the Bank of England (I've linked to it above in another reply).

In the US, I believe you have to contact the US Treasury Department; but you could probably just go to a bank for such a note (or an entire filled band if you wanted it) - but for certain things you would likely need to contact them directly I think.

For instance, you used to be able to get uncut bills; IIRC, one of the Steves of Apple fame used to pay things as a joke with these, in the one dollar denomination - he would get the sheets, then have them professionally perforated, and then punched to put them in a binder, and when he'd pay for stuff, he'd open the binder, and tear out the money - it was perfectly legitimate cash, but it threw a lot of people for a loop - I believe it was Woz who did this; Jobs was a bit uptight for that kind of hack - which is what made them a perfect pair - it's just too bad that Woz didn't get to really share in the "fame" of Apple (I think that was his choice, though - from what I know of him, that's how he is mostly).

To get those uncut bills, though, I think you had to travel to the US Treasury and purchase/pick-up in person; it wasn't something you could just easily grab at your bank. Today, they don't sell them at all, probably due to counterfeiting (bleach the paper and re-print higher-denomination bills all at one shot).

I assumed the commenter was in England. I can see how my comment was misleading.

Still, I stand by my point that you can get a note of the local currency from a bank brand new (you may have to ask around) and it will be good enough for someone who just wants to have a new one and isn’t going to get it graded.

And even funnier how there's a quote there how the 50 note is being targeted as an elitist/laundry note

It might have been a big amount of money 20/30 yrs ago but today it's a bit weird that's the biggest denomination.

Not only is he an important historical figure, but England owes him a great debt (and reparation). Previously they'd only "pardoned" him; this is a stronger gesture.

The formulae and the binary ticker tape are a nice touch.

Shame he didn’t make it onto the £10 note tbh.

Is there any thing that makes the $10 more prestigious than the $50? Not an Englishman, so I may not know something about this.

I was more continuing the binary digit theme, but at the same time it is a more common note. £50 notes are generally for doing crimes, buying cars or making shopkeepers stare exasperatedly at you.

I think it's a joke, "£10" could look like a binary number.

Alternatively, there are a lot more £10 notes in circulation, and the previous £10 note had Charles Darwin.

It would at least get seem more. Last time I saw a £50 note was I think around 1998.

All these comments about how rare £50 notes are really make me want one.

If you're in the UK, just go to your bank and ask to withdraw £50. Job done.

If you're somewhere else, go to your local money exchange place with the equivalent of £50. I almost guarantee they will have some.

I'll sell you one for £55

I think the OP was making a point about the £10 being binary: a 1 and a 0

Apparently the binary spells out Alan Turing's birthday!

Just a shame that this bank note is basically unusable

Maybe they'll finally start using it in cash machines outside London once the pound drops haha

They're normal in casinos. Don't know about anywhere else though.

Because for many people casinos are about money laundering, not gambling.

Can you elaborate on why they're unusable?

Lots of shops (at least in my neighbourhood in London) flat out refuse to accept £50 notes.

Interesting! My neighbourhood in London (NW6 - not particularly upmarket) seemed to accept them fine... as well as most places in Central London.

Interesting indeed! My area has lots of tourists doing short stays, so I would've assumed that shops would be MORE open to accept all sorts of cash, but nope. Most places have notices that say they don't accept the £50 notes due to fear of counterfeits.

Shops can refuse to accept them but if you are using them to settle a debt; pay restaurant bill / taxi ride then they cannot legally be refused.

Yes they can. It means they can't sure you for not paying though.

[1] https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/knowledgebank/what-is-legal-...

Cue debate about if stamps must be accepted!

If you're in Cheltenham during Gold Cup week (a horse race event that attracts large numbers of people) there are many fake notes floating around, so local stores stop accepting notes in the month around race week.

If it's anything like using the 50 euro bill in Spain, it's hard to use them in everyday transactions as usually places don't have enough change (or want to loose that change) for 50 euros if you order a coffee for example.

Assuming you have two €20 notes, which have no other purpose, making change from €50 is no different to making change from €10.

It's more likely a concern about a counterfeit note, although I've never had that problem with a €50.

Right, but if at the start of the day you've got no €20s but 4x€10 in your till, that could be change for 4 customers with €20s - or a single customer with a €50.

And a policy of "no €50s" is simpler and clearer than a policy of "€50s accepted only if we have at least 2 €20s in the till" which means customers won't know if they can pay until they reach the till.

The reasons a small business might not keep a large float of €20s in their till is probably obvious!

I use the 50 EUR note in Spain quite often (every week) without any problem whatsoever. Obviously if you are gonna pay a 1.30 EUR coffee with a 50 EUR note you might be asked if you have a lower one...

That problems happen if you try to use the 100EUR one and obove.

Guess it's very location dependent. In the middle of Barcelona/Madrid, people won't have any issues with your 50 euro bills but in villages scattered around (mainly my experience is Catalunya), it's hard to find a place willing to give you change on a 50 euro bill if you're only paying for something that is around 10 euros or less.

We haven't had any problems in Portugal. They would happily take our 50 and 100 euro bills.

Nobody uses them in day to day life. Many people have never even seen one. Most cash machines only have £20 notes as the highest denomination.

I agree they're rarely used by locals.

Having said that, when I have friends visit from Singapore, they often seem to carry £50 notes... and most places seem to accept them (although maybe this is less true outside London).

When I first moved to London my Australian bank changed about $1000 AUD for me to british 50s; I think in that part of the world the banks/money changers get shipments of 50s to save space/weight. Took me a good year to shift those though, 3/4 of places would outright refuse to accept them and the other quarter would handle them with a mix of confusion and distrust.

Denomination is too big for most daily use

I have never had trouble spending a 50. Although Scottish 50s are often refused.

The current batch of 50s are practically unusable because they are widely counterfeited and lack sufficient security features. The new one should significantly lower that risk - that having been said, it's likely that they will be hoarded by drug dealers etc so you won't be seeing a huge number of them in circulation.

They should put "There's no such thing as The Turing Test" somewhere on there.

“This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

What a great quote.

Great recognition!!! Excellent design as well. Well done 'Bank of England'.

Wonderful choice!! Hoping for Rosalind Franklin next!

that picture of him is remarkably high-res for a £50 note

Nice, but a click baity headline for HN...

It's fixed now

Aside from the excellent choice of Turing, this is some godawful design, with all the worst Photoshop cliches from the 90s.

It's just a rough mock-up, the final design should be much better (at least that's what happened with the redesigns of the £5/£10 notes).

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact