Another contentious aspect of Turing's paper (1950) concerns his restriction of the discussion to the case of “digital computers.” On the one hand, it seems clear that this restriction is really only significant for the prediction that Turing makes about how things will be in the year 2000, and not for the details of the test itself. (Indeed, it seems that if the test that Turing proposes is a good one, then it will be a good test for any kinds of entities, including, for example, animals, aliens, and analog computers. That is: if animals, aliens, analog computers, or any other kinds of things, pass the test that Turing proposes, then there will be as much reason to think that these things exhibit intelligence as there is reason to think that digital computers that pass the test exhibit intelligence.) On the other hand, it is actually a highly controversial question whether “thinking machines” would have to be digital computers; and it is also a controversial question whether Turing himself assumed that this would be the case. In particular, it is worth noting that the seventh of the objections that Turing (1950) considers addresses the possibility of continuous state machines, which Turing explicitly acknowledges to be different from discrete state machines. Turing appears to claim that, even if we are continuous state machines, a discrete state machine would be able to imitate us sufficiently well for the purposes of the Imitation Game. However, it seems doubtful that the considerations that he gives are sufficient to establish that, if there are continuous state machines that pass the Turing Test, then it is possible to make discrete state machines that pass the test as well. (Turing himself was keen to point out that some limits had to be set on the notion of “machine” in order to make the question about “thinking machines” interesting:
The book of rules which we have described our human computer as using is of course a convenient fiction. Actual human computers really remember what they have got to do. If one wants to make a machine mimic the behaviour of the human computer in some complex operation one has to ask him how it is done, and then translate the answer into the form of an instruction table. Constructing instruction tables is usually described as "programming." To "programme a machine to carry out the operation A" means to put the appropriate instruction table into the machine so that it will do A.