World First Electronic Computer Now 70 Years Old
Peter Donnell / 6 years ago
The Colossus was built to break the code accelerate complex system of Lorenz cipher which was used in communications between Hitler and his generals during World War II. It was designed by British telephone engineer Tommy Flowers and this week it turned 70 years old.
The Colossus is the worlds first electronic computer, designed as a code breaking machine and as with any system this old, it was freaking huge! And this week saw some of Britain’s best known code breakers who operated the Colossus gather at the National Museum of Computing to celebrate the seven decades that the machine has been in assistance.
This machine and others like it are credited with significantly shortening the war, cracking codes that literally saved lives on many occasions. By the end of the war the machine has processed 63 million characters of German messages, decrypted by the 550 people who were working together on ten functioning colossi machines during the war.
The machine measured 7ft high, 17ft wide and 11ft deep, weighed five tons, with 2,500 valves and 10,000 resistors that were connected by 7km of wiring. Despite its size, the machine was managed to be kept secret for 30 years due to the sensitivity of the work it has helped complete.
Tim Reynolds, chair of Britain’s National Museum of Computing said, “The achievements of those who worked at Bletchley Park are humbling. Tutte’s ingenuity in deducing out how the Lorenz machine worked without ever having seen it, the skill of those who broke the cipher by hand and Flowers’ design of the world’s first electronic computer Colossus to speed up the code-breaking process are feats almost beyond comprehension.”
In 1994 a team rebuilt the Colossus, which was unveiled to the public on November 2997.
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