In computer science, a universal Turing machine (UTM) is a Turing machine that can simulate an arbitrary Turing machine on arbitrary input. The universal machine essentially achieves this by reading both the description of the machine to be simulated as well as the input to that machine from its own tape. Alan Turing introduced the idea of such a machine in 1936–1937. This principle is considered to be the origin of the idea of a stored-program computer used by John von Neumann in 1946 for the "Electronic Computing Instrument" that now bears von Neumann's name: the von Neumann architecture.[1]

In terms of computational complexity, a multi-tape universal Turing machine need only be slower by logarithmic factor compared to the machines it simulates.[2]