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Arguably, there is more programming done today in spreadsheets than any other programming language. (Or is it a programming language at all?) I'd like to kick off a discussion of how Critical Code Studie can approach the analysis of programming in spreadsheets with a look at an usual example: a Turing Machine built in a spreadsheet.
The Turing Machine is the hypothetical contraption Alan Turing described in "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungs problem." One team of Netherland-based developers, including Felienne Hermans, were at a retreat when they decided to try to build on in Excel.
In addition to examining this use of a spreadsheet to create a Turing Machine, I would like to open up the discussion about spreadsheet programming. First, of all, so much research depends on work done in spreadsheets. Consider this small example of spreadsheet work gone awry. However, seeing this work in spreadsheets as programming may seem counterintuitive. I recently had a conversation with UCLA's Todd Millstein, who demonstrated the conditional statements and loops that can be written into spreadsheets (and pointed me toward that previous example). But certainly, most of this work does not look like our conventional concept of "coding." The interface metaphor itself is distracting. However considering even formulas in spreadsheets as programming starts to dissolve the conceptual boundary between programming and mathematics. Perhaps the Turing Machine is a good place to start because it is self is a mathematical model/specification/thought experiment.
But specifically: What does this implementation of a Turing Machine teach us about Turing's formulation of this model?