it.gen.nz

Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Where it all began

Bletchley Park.jpgI was privileged yesterday to visit Bletchley Park, the home of the British WWII codebreaking effort.

As well as the story of Alan Turing and the Enigma, which I’ve talked about many times before, Bletchley Park has many tales to tell. One I didn’t know was the Colossus computer built to crack a later German code. It really was the first programmable digital computer in the world. Twelve were built, but all were destroyed after the war by Churchill’s order. He didn’t want the Russians to know the extent of Britain’s codebreaking abilities.

Today you can see a rebuilt Colossus made out of radio valves and old telephone exchange equipment. It’s about the size of six modern computer racks, and generates over 5kw of heat (nothing changes!). It also has a loop of paper tape running at over 30mph. It’s all part of an intitiave called The National Musueum of Computing.

So, Bletchley Park is the place where the modern computer was invented. And then covered up.

posted by colin at 8:16 am  

2 Comments

  1. How could you not know about Colossus? Hand in your propellor beanie immediately!

    Comment by Mark Harris — 4 February 2009 @ 7:01 pm

  2. Hehe. I’ll talk about this on the radio sometime. Just not today.

    Comment by colin — 5 February 2009 @ 7:10 am

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