The Anniversary of the World’s First Electronic Computer

Bletchley Park. With thanks to Draco2008 for the photo.
Bletchley Park. With thanks to Draco2008 for the photo.

Yesterday saw the 70th anniversary of the world’s first electronic computer, the Colossus C, which was used to decipher codes during the Second World War at Bletchley Park.

The computer was designed by British telephone engineer Tommy Flowers to speed up code-breaking of the complex Lorenz cipher. By the end of the war there were ten functioning Colossus machines and they had a decisive impact in shortening the war and saving countless lives. Colossus was the first electronic computer, but news of its existence was kept secret for thirty years because of the sophistication and sensitivity surrounding the encryption it had helped to break. The computer, which was 7ft high by 17ft wide and 11ft deep, weighed a tonne and used 8kW of power.

Reading 5,000 characters per second, faster than anything ever produced commercially ever since, it found the start wheel positions of Lorenz messages that were used in communication between Hitler and his generals.

To read more about this story, click here.