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Dead medium: the Bletchley Park Colossus
From: bruces@well.com Bruce Sterling
Source(s): Brian Randell

(((Through happy accident I have found an eyewitness

account of the newly resurrected Bletchley Park Colossus,

as mentioned in Working Note 10.5. This report is by

Brian Randell (Brian.Randell@newcastle.ac.uk) and was

distributed on Dave Farber's "Interesting People" list. ==

bruces)))

The Colossus Rebuild Project

by Brian Randell

Yesterday I attended the ceremony at Bletchley Park for

the formal switching on of the recreated Colossus

computer. It was a glorious day, attended by about two

hundred people, many of whom had worked on code-breaking

at Bletchley Park during the war. The project is

essentially due to one person, Tony Sale, who is I'm sure

uniquely qualified for such a project. He was for many

years with M.I.5 (including a period as technical

assistant to Peter Wright, of "Spycatcher" fame/notoriety)

and so has a very high security clearance. He is expert

on ancient electronics, he was for several years a Senior

Curator at the Science Museum, London, (where he led the

project which got a Ferranti Pegasus and an early Elliott

computer operational again) and he has an unbelievable

ability to get things done. The document attached below is

the press briefing for yesterday's ceremony.

The recreated Colossus is remarkably authentic, though not

yet finished. (It was in fact complete enough to read

encrypted messages from the 5000 character per second

paper tape, do some basic processing using an electronic

version of the Lorenz (Tunny) rotors, and output counts

onto an electromechanical typewriter == all very

impressive. There are also a whole series of rooms in

which the various aspects of the wartime work, from radio

interception, through to processing and indexing the

results of the codebreaking, are portrayed and explained.

When I succeeded in getting the Colossus partly

declassified, and some photographs of it released, I never

dreamt that, over twenty years later, I would actually see

a real = albeit recreated = one!

Cheers

Brian

PS You will find a home page for the Colossus Rebuild

Project at:

http://www.cranfield.ac.uk/CCC/BPark/colossus