Bletchley Park is the UK’s mecca for people interested in the history of code breaking, and in particular the codes of World War 2. Bletchley Park (in WW2 known as “Station X”) was the home of the code breakers, and where early computing pioneers like Alan Turing worked on the science of breaking cyphers.
This week, a team of volunteers led by Tony Sale completed a 14 year project to rebuild Colossus, one of the code-breaking computers used at Bletchley Park. After the war the machines were dismantled and even the plans destroyed by order of the military, so the Colossus had to be painstakingly remembered and reconstructed, with the help of some of the original engineers that built it. Tony Sale has had a long association with Bletchley Park, and also with remembering and rebuilding the most important antique computers in the British history of computing.
Although the Colossus was somewhat single-minded in its operation, its use of valves as electronic switches paved the way for the general-purpose computers of the 1940s and 50s, and of course the work they did at Bletchley paved the way for the use of encryption technologies that we use today in data and voice applications across the Internet.