It’s Colossus

Heather took this photo but I have it on good authority that its the same moon that was the icing on the cake for an enjoyable day on Firecrest.  We’d had a pleasant morning being visited by Colin, a friend who had worked with Eric over 20 years ago.  It was nice to catch up.  And the two reminisced about valves, transistors and Strowger telephone exchanges as talk turned to Bletchley Park and their early careers with the GPO.

Earlier in the week we had returned to visit the National Museum of Computing so we could see Colossus.  Following Alan Turings success with the Bombe, work at Bletchley Park needed to keep pace with the Germans more and more complex cipher machines.

Tommy Flowers had big ideas and worked to improve the temperamental machine known as Heath Robinson (after the cartoonist who drew weird and whacky inventions).  He discarded the use of rotating wheels in favour of valves in order to speed up the process of deciphering the code.  And so Colossus was born, the first digital electronic computer.  Ironically Flowers was ordered to destroy all the design blue prints at the end of the war and most of the Colossus machines were dismantled and the parts returned to the GPO. However GCHQ kept hold of 2 machines which helped decipher the Cold War codes used by the Russians. The code breaking machines at Bletchley Park remained an unspoken secret until the mid 70’s

Flowers continued his innotive work on telephone exchanges after the war.  He even applied for a bank loan to build a ‘computer’ but was turned down because they didn’t thing it could be done… However my favourite post war machine that he worked on has to be EARNIE the premium bonds computer although it still hasn’t thrown my numbers into the winning draw yet.