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Stories by a short, fat bastard

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UK Trip Day 9 part 2
Photos, art
Every true geek should know the name Tommy Flowers. We all remember Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Admiral Grace Hopper, and Alan Turing. Tommy Flowers is the engineer who Alan Turing came to when he needed help building something to decrypt the German codes. Mr Flowers built the *first* programmable computer. By the end of the War he'd built 10 of them.

The National Museum Of Computing has re-built one of the original Colossus computers, using as many original parts and valves as possible.

Bletchley Park

Programme on paper tape.
Bletchley Park

Paper tape feeder running fast enough to give you a nasty paper cut.
Bletchley Park

Racks of Valves
Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

Data entry console. Output is from a teletype off to the left.
Bletchley Park

Entry to Bletchley Mansion
Bletchley Park

WW2 era Talbot
Bletchley Park

Crumbly brick wall
Bletchley Park

Heron in the Bletchley Park pond.
Bletchley Park

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what's scary is that i actually understand that thing...

What, you mean the paper tape? I used to work with that stuff when I was in the Navy. Lovely stuff! The chads make excellent confetti. I have an icon that I like to use when someone is being a prat, so it's certainly not directed at you? I just thought you might find it amusing...

I've had some experience with paper tape - I once had a length of tape in which the pattern of holes spelled out my first name. But I'm also quite familiar with tubes (or "valves", as the Brits and Aussies so quaintly call them); I'm old enough that my very first education in electronics was firmly based in tube circuitry. ("But why can't a ten-year-old girl be a ham radio operator? I could so build my own rig - my dad just taught me how to solder mil-spec!")

Edited at 2012-06-17 05:14 pm (UTC)

This is the voice of Colossus...

Except that this "Colossus" has somewhat less computing power than my $12 drugstore wristwatch :-)

My favourite fact about Colossus is that you can measure its clock speed in miles per hour :)

Flower's mentions the interesting things that happen to the paper tape at 60MPH :D

Great stuff!

I think I saw that behind Spock's station.

Was it programmed to receive?

I haf to mejk a stänt herre: Z1 and Z3. ;-) Not that they were put to much use, unlike Colossus.

First *real* job was at GTE California (now Verizon West) doing Central Office Installer work on Strowger Step telephone switching - and the vintage gear looked a LOT like that. And was surprisingly reliable if you kept it lubed and adjusted. We had to keep adding new lines and doing customer changes until it could be replaced with electronics.

Colossus is an interesting machine, looks like they were simply doing Brute Force decoding of the encrypted traffic - Put the coded message on that paper tape loop in the repeater, and step through all the possible decode solutions till real words started appearing - all valid letter and symbol codes, no trash.

Nowadays a desktop computer can probably crack an Enigma coded message in mere seconds, but in WW-II that was state of the art.

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