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March 9, 2012 AT 12:37 am

Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer

Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer

Today, we’d like to pay homage to a lesser-known contributor—Tommy Flowers. Bletchley Park’s breakthroughs were the product of theoretical mathematical brilliance combined with dazzling feats of engineering—none more so than Flowers’ creation of Colossus, the world’s first programmable, electronic computer.

By 1942 the hardest task facing Bletchley Park’s wartime codebreakers was deciphering messages encrypted by Lorenz, used by Germany for their most top-secret communications. Initially Lorenz messages were broken by hand, using ingenious but time-consuming techniques. To speed things up, it was decided to build a machine to automate parts of the decoding process. This part-mechanical, part-electronic device was called Heath Robinson, but although it helped, it was unreliable and still too slow.

Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer


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3 Comments

  1. “Colossus: The Forbin Project”

  2. The Colossus has been rebuilt and on display in Bletchley Park. The museum is well worth a visit if you’re in the UK and interested in the history of codebreaking, WW2 or computing.

    http://www.codesandciphers.org.uk/
    http://www.tnmoc.org/
    http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/

  3. Dimitri Katsaros

    … and not one word about Turing and how his ideas led to Colossus’ development in the first place???

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