Friday, June 04, 2004


The story of the Colossus, a British code breaking computer from WWII, is getting a bit of attention due to the D-Day anniversary. A few interesting points:

  • It predates the ENIAC as the world's first electronic computer, but this wasn't widely known as it was kept secret (I can't imagine why, they even went so far as to destroy it.)
  • They built ten of them! There was only one ENIAC as far as I know.
  • It would supposedly break the codes at roughly the same rate as a modern computer (this is a bit hard to believe, but it was a custom built for the task and could perform many operations in parallel.)
  • It wasn't switched off until the war finished, so the valves didn't burn out.
  • As always, the key to breaking the German cypher was a human failure. Just goes to show that no matter how hard you try, some idiot will go and stuff it up.

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