The history of the first computer
'Given a challenge and the motivation to succeed.
Human ingenuity excels surmounting all barriers'
Competition during the Second World War accelerated technical developments that would give one adversary the advantage.
Some have remained secret until fairly recently. When the thirty and fifty year rules controlling the release of UK Government's Official Secrets Act came into effect.
During the Second World War one of the most important objectives of the British government was the de- cryptage of German Enigma and Geheimschereiber codes used for communications between the German armed forces.
Note: Geheimschereiber codes where also referred to as 'Fish codes' it was simpler.
As early as 1934 a captured Enigma coding machines and copies of the early German Enigma signals manual had enabled the Polish BS4 decoding group to analyse the machine and create an electro- mechanical device they called a 'bomba' that could run through all the permutations of the three rotor machine until the message could be decrypted.
|An original 3 rotor Enigma machine|
The Polish mathematicians Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski that made up the decoding group of the BS4 managed to decipher German signals until December 1938.When the German Enigma machine was updated by adding two further code wheels giving a total of 5 rotors that could be preset at random to encode a particular message. In January1939 a meeting was arranged between Polish, French and British intelligence to discuss mutual cooperation on deciphering German coded signals. A second meeting was held near Warsaw in July 1939 at which it is believed that 'M' the British intelligence chief made famous by the novels of Ian Flemming and the Cambridge mathematician Alan Turing where present. The Poles supplied a copy of both the Enigma three rotor machine and the German coding manual to the British 16th August1939.
Shortly afterwards the 'Blitzkrieg' invasion of Poland by Germany, forced the Polish BS4 team to destroy there deciphering 'Bomba' machine and flee Poland. Arriving in neutral Bucharest and then on to Paris. By late October the Polish team had been found a new home in a chateau north of Paris and named 'Bruno'. In January1940 Turing is known to have visited them and supplied sets of 60 improved overlay punch cards that where used to crack the five rotor enigma signal codes. By June1940 the German advance had pushed to within 14kms of the 'Bruno' group. So they fled into unoccupied France and set up a new group referred to as Unit300 near Avignon. Where they continued to decode over 673 German messages principly concerning the war in North Africa.
Active until 8th November1942 they split up and headed south over the Pyrenee's and into Spain where several were supported by underground resistance groups and helped escape via Gibralter and on to England. Many where captured and tortured by the Gestapo and sent to concentration camps. Most where never to be seen again.
From the early summer of 1939 all British crypanalysts had been moved with the Code and Cipher breaking unit to Bletchley Park .
Cambridge mathematicians Gordan Welchman and Alan Turing worked on cracking the Enigma five rotor code helped by the availability of the Polish three rotor Enigma machine and the copy of the German code manual.
Initially these codes where laboriously cracked by hand calculations.
Fortunately Alan Turing was gifted with being both an excellent mathematician and an engineer capable of designing an electrro mechanical device to crack the five rotor machine code. What these machines carried out was a systematic number crunching that would cover all possible permutations that could be generated by the five code rotors.
Using a series of six drums stacked in a column. Each cylinder was marked with the 26 letters around the circumference that matched those of the Enigma machine. A decoding unit that comprised twelve columns was then set to work to find the deciphered message.
So using a copy of the recorded coded German message the decoding unit or 'Bomb' could be programmed and set to work to reveal the real hidden message.
The number of possible variables or permutations could be reduced if there was some identifiable name that could be assigned to the message.
This would effectively reduce the time required to crack the message. Which is why crypanalysts were used to select the wiring code sequence from which the 'Bomb' would be programmed to run.
Welchman quickly recognised that what they were looking at was the means of communication for the entire German command and that each division would have their own enigma machine.
So to record and decode all the massages an organisation of considerable size would need to be set up at Bletchley Park..
The 'Bomb' with the help of mathematicians was successful in quickly cracking operational level intelligence. That could be used to alter the strategy of the allied attack.
Of a far higher importance was the Geheimschereiber machine codes or Fish codes. These where used by the German high command to set priorities and changes in strategy.
The Geheimschereiber machine and the Ultra Secret
The Geheimschereiber machine was a sophisticated teleprinter that had ten rotors and was linked by landline or radio to a network of Geheimschereiber machines that linked the German high command.
It had been produced by the Lorenz company following a request by the German high command to produce for them a high security teleprinter cipher machine to enable them to communicate by radio or telephone line in complete secrecy.
The Lorenz company designed a cipher machine based on the additive method for enciphering teleprinter messages invented in 1918 by Gilbert Vernam in America.
Sent A + F = C > Received C + F = A
Where A is the original character in the German message.
F is the random obscuring character.
And C is the resulting cipher that can be transformed back into the original German character A if the obscuring code F is known
What is almost certain is that for the first few years of the war nobody was able to record the German transmissions as most where coded and transmitted by land telephone lines.
In May 1940 one of the German telegraph cables that transferred messages from Germany to occupied Norway was identified and found to pass through neutral Sweden. Allowing a Swedish cryptanalyst Arne Beurling to both record and de-cypher the German
Geheimschereiber code. Working with a Swedish teleprinter technician, Beurling was then able to transform the code into German text.
This encouraging development was short lived as the complexity of the Geheimschereiber code soon began to become considerably more complex.
Where the rotating drums of the Bletchley 'Bombs' could cope with five rotors the Geheimschereiber machine code required something faster and more powerful.
In effect the electrical mechanical 'Bombs' could trace there ancestry back to the development of the mechanical Babbage ( 1834 Analytical Engine) calculating machine.
In September1942 another bright Cambridge mathematician called Max Newman was given the task of cracking the Geheimschereiber machine code.
Earlier in the same year some of the Geheimschereiber machine messages had been broken by W.T.Tutte at Bletchley using a lengthy hand decryptage. That compared certain parts of different transmissions. Looking for similarity.
Trying to immitate what the Geheimschereiber machine was doing.
Newman was given authority to set up a working group that included Alan Turing and Gordan Welchman.
The Geheimschereiber machine was basically a modified teleprinter as the Swedes had understood.earlier. That used a basic Murray telegraph code which used 32 units that where used twice to define 26 letters upper and lower case,10 numbers and a series of command instructions that were required for the international telegram transmission format.
Each character was defined by a unique sequence of five units that where represented by either a mark or a space. So each character would have a string of five marks or spaces sequenced in a unique order as illustrated below.
Basically the Baudot or Murray code was a binary system that could then be manipulated digitally. So the marks and blanks could be simply replaced by a series of 1 and 0.
This is where the idea of using simple switching circuits to represent the 1and 0 was suggested.
Electronic switching was at that point based on thyristor valve technology which where synonymous with problems poor reliability.
Newman approached TRE in Malvern to design an electronic machine to implement the double-delta method of finding wheel start positions which Bill Tutte had devised. Then he searched for some help from the GPO British Post Office Research unit based in Dollis Hill, London to build it for him.
Where two young research engineers T.H.Flowers and S.W. Broadhirst where working on high speed switching for developing auto matic telephone exchanges.
Flowers was convinced that providing the thyristor valves where left switched on then there would be no problems with reliability. As had been proved by there development work at the GPO and independent experience at the BBC.
The chiefs within the ministry of defence where to say the least sceptical. But what did they know about the new technologies.
So the first TRE machine was built with only about 80 valves and was basically a hybrid device that was partly electronic but mainly electro-mechanical.or Bomb2
Two photo electric cells read two looped punch tape streams at 2000 telegraph characters per second.
The punch tapes had each character defined in the Murray code or Baudot code of five units. By replacing the blanks and the spaces with a sequence of punched holes across the width of the paper tape. Each character was then set in sequence down the length of the paper tape.
The coded German message would be recorded in Baudot code on one tape and compared with a reference tape that had de-cyphering key units. Both tapes would then be run at a scynchronised high speed of 1000 characters /sec to test all the possible combinations of the ten rotors. Paper tape streams where prone to break and repeatability was low.
To test all the possible permutations of the rotor. The tape which represented the rotor positions was then advanced one position and the procedure run again.
This was done in order to find the most likely match and identify the rotor settings used by the Geremans for ciphering the signal.
Original text would be extracted from the coded message using binary arithmatical subtraction provided by the electronics.
Which comprised switching relays and valves.
Although reliability was a problem it worked sufficiently well to confirm Newman belief that a system could be developed to mimic the Geheimschereiber machine. That could significantly reduce the time required to die-cypher codes.
Colossus 2 picture released in 1976.
Initial problems encountered with this prototype machine referred to as 'Heath Robinson ' would be overcome when Flowers was given a free hand to develop a high speed switching system that relied on 1500 valves.
The thyratron valves replacing the 1 and 0. By being either (ON) passing current or (OFF) when no current passed.
Work started on 'ColosssusMk1' in February 1943 and was installed in Bletchley during December of the same year.
Nearly all the components used where standard GPO telecom racks and components that where being used to develop a high speed switching automatic telephone exchange.
The unreliable punch tape key codes that represented the positions of the 10 rotors on the 'Heath Robinson' where now selected electronically. With each of the 10 Geheimschereiber machine rotors simulated by using a ring of thyratron triode valves.
To represent the rotor status. Only one valve in the thyratron ring would allow current to flow at any moment in time.
When any triode valve was conducting current a signal pulse was passed to other circuits that counted using binary arithmatic and Boolean logic gates.
Key rotor positions where created by the machine and subtracted from the streamed punch tape that carried the original coded German message. Results from the run where then printed out on a modified teleprinter.
The reading speed and reliability of the tape reader had been increased from 2000 to5000 characters /sec.
Sychronisation of the electronic system with the mechanical tape speed was achieved by using photo cells to generate timing pulses driven from the frequency of sprocket holes in the paper tape Measured as the paper tape passed the tape reader head.
The code breaking analyst would program the computer with a preset selection of key code rotor positions . For which the computer would run the German coded message.
These pre set conditions where selected by a combination of hard wire and variable plug programming.
The Colossus1 proved to be far more reliable than the earlier electro-mechanical prototype. Mainly because it was almost completely electronic. The results it produced where the product of a simple basic logic, reliable and readily reproducible.
Once the code key string had been identified the programmed. Colossus could be used to decipher any coded German signal introduced in Baudot tape stream format.
From 1939 to 1945 the Siemens company is believed to have developed five versions of the Geheimschereiber machine each evolution requiring an evolution in the decyphering capability of the Colossus team at Bletchley.
The 52c model of the Geheimschereiber machine introduced a system of pawls between the rotors. That ment that the rotation of the rotors was now irregular.
In response to this development a decision was made to design and develop an uprated version of Colossus.
In order to model the eccentric pawl rotor drive Colossus2 used a conditional IF logic. Which made it the first system that could use a branching logic to sought through data. If certain set criteria where met then go to..
Originating the now famous programming logic loop IF then GO TO.
The 'Colossus 2' had 2500 valves and like Colossus 1 had to be kept running 24hrs a day. It still had a tape stream reading speed of 5000 characters a sec. But was now capable of reading 5 tape stream simultaneously giving it a capability of reading 25000 characters/sec. Which was not improved on by commercially available computers until1955.
Output was provided by an electric line typewriter.
In total ten Colossus 2 where built to an order that was placed with the GPO telecommunications department in March 1944. Tommy Flowers and his team worked 24 hour shifts to complete the first machine that was delivered on June 1st before the D Day invasion. Each of the subsequent machines included improvements on the previous system and where completed and installed at Bletchley before the end of the month.
The importance of this technological break through was treated as an Ultra secret. In fact the acknowledgment of the existence of Colossus was only released into the public domain in 1975.
Details of its specification where finally released by GCHQ in 1994 and a working replica built and displayed in a museum opened to the public at Bletchley.
Colossus has been reported at a NPL lecture in 1996 given by Jack Good to have been capable of 1011 consecutive elementary Boolean and /or calculations without error.
What happened to the Colossus machines after the war?
At the end on the war in 1945 all the Bletchley GCHQ team had been contracted to observe the extreme secrecy concerning the Ultra secret. So they where covered by the Official secrets act for 30 or 50 years.
That Tommy Flowers actually lived to see a replica of Colossus run during his lifetime is little short of a miracle.
The significance of the Colossus project has frequently been confused with the Enigma code breaking effort.
But the detailed strategy of the Allies that was altered by the information obtained from Colossus. Has still not been released.
What we do know is the Colossus allowed the Lorenzo code messages sent by the German High command to be deciphered in minutes and not weeks. That the allied invasion was helped by these decoded intercepts is beyond doubt.
Of the ten Colossus2 machines 8 are known to have been immediately dismantled and there components returned to the GPO where they were subsequently built into automatic telephone exchanges.
Colossus 2 machines are known to have been used on calculations other than code cracking.
Two where used by GCHQ up until 1960 when they where dismantled and all the plans destroyed.
Because of the secrecy act nobody has heard of the British team that developed the first computer
Have you heard of Max Newman and Tommy Flowers?
Or how Tommy Flowers had to use his own money to develop the first Colossus.
Due to a mixture of bureaucratic inertia, coupled with a lack of interest from both the government and financial institutions in supporting the idea.
Following the request to rebuild the Collossus in 1994. It was discovered that much of the British documentation had been destroyed and a considerable amount of detailed data was recovered from the US. Copies of detailed reports where obtained from the USA that had been written by US intelligence people working at Bletchley GCHQ 1944>45.
After 1945 a blanket of silence descended on everything to do with Bletchley Park that has, until now, prevented Colossus from taking its rightful place as one of the greatest achievements of British technology. It has also allowed the Americans, to claim incorrectly that their ENIAC computer, which first ran in 1946, was the first large electronic valve computer in the world.
'Colossus' is one of the greatest technological achievements in modern history
Reference site by Tony Sale on the Colossus and its rebirth at the Bletchley Park Museum.
' The Secret War' bbc Television series and book by Brian Johnson.
bbc World Series 'Genius'
Rebuilt Colossus to crack new codes November 2007
Tommy Flowers with a
D Day Robert Cappa June 1944
At the end of the war....Flowers, returned to the Post Office to continue his work on electronic telephone systems, and received a £1,000 award for his war work, barely sufficient to pay off the debts that he had run up while developing Colossus. He was also appointed MBE. But his role in the breaking of the Nazi codes and the development of the modern computer remained a secret, even to his family, for many years.
Flowers received an honorary doctorate from Newcastle University in 1977, and another from De Montfort University in Leicester.
This engineer is a hero in every sense of the word.
One of the First Electronics Engineers
How many lives were saved by the courage and determination of this man?
Humble, determined, an electronics hardware pioneer, stoical, loyal, defender of human rights....
Forgotten by the intellectual elite of the day and the USA. Possibly due to the academic hierarchy seperating mathematicians from engineers.
History should record that he designed and developed a practical computer based on his ideas for electronic switching.
Flowers was responsible for the design and development of the reliable hardware and software interface.
Colossus 1 and 2 should be credited to Tommy Flowers and his team of electronic engineers.
After the war Max Newman set up an electronic computer research team at Manchester University that produced the worlds first programmable computer. 21st June 1948
Whilst Alan Turing should be remembered as the mathematician and code breaker. Who developed the Bomba with Welchman based on a Polish system that deciphered the Enigma codes. and gave birth to 'Heath Robinson'
As a mathematician Turing expressed his ideas for using a primitive Software based programming technique in order to simplify the complexity of the machine required to carry out data analysis and logic gates for analysing codes and decrypting . Heath Robinson , Colossus 1 and 2.
Although it is more correct to assign the originality of Colossus to the Newman / Flowers partnership. Since as detailed below Turing was occupied with other projects.
Can be defined as the list or 'program' identifying the sequence of functions or events a machine(computer) is required to follow in order to subsequently analyse a stream of characters (data stream) feed into the computer.
Using a series of 'Boolean logic' comparisons (Logic gates) or filters called up by the program to process the data input.
The Turing definition of a computer is a machine (computer) that has the capacity to be programmed to carry out a wide range of mathematical and physical analogue model calculations to obtain a repeatable result. Having a large enough internal memory to achieve the objective.
Turing also identified the possibility of carrying out simpler number processing parts of the program in parallel In order to speed up the overall computer response time.
Identifying and seperating the simpler mathematical operations such as +. -, *, /,>,<,= and running them in parallel loops.
Welchman and Turing managed to crack the German Naval Enigma code signals that helped win the battle of the Atlantic and allow urgently needed supplies to arrive in Britain to sustain the war effort.
By the end of 1940 German submarines had sunk 443 merchant ships over 2.5.106 tonnes. The rate at which ships where being lost was far greater than the rate new ships could be built to replace them.
Turing's loyalty was split between the USA and the UK.
Turing had strong academic ties with several US Universities where he had worked in the 1930's
Princeton University 1936 >1938 with John von Newmann and Alonzo Church. Where he gained his doctorate.
From the 7th November 1942 until 31st March1943 Turing was sent by the British secret service ( Bletchley Park) to the USA to help with there decryptage of German submarine and Japanese coded signals.
From January 1943 he worked in conjunction with Claude Shannon at the Bell Laboratories, New York developing a system to encode telephone conversations between President Roosevelt and Churchill.
What Turing actually was involved in during his secret visits the the USA is still covered by the Official Secrets Act. With documents released in 1996 only mentioning his involvement with the Bell laboratories.
In 1943 the US Navy built 121 Bomba machines with Turings help. To enable them to decipher the Geramn communication signals
It is highly probable that Turing was also used as a consultant on the Manhattan atomic bomb project.
Back in England at Bletchley Park, Welchman was responsible for developing the Bomba Enigma code breaking section.
Whilst Max Newmwn and Flowers were developing the Colossus computer to break the 'Fish codes'.
1944 On returning from the USA Turing declined the option of returning to work with Max Newman and Welchman moving instead to work at the Secret Service, Hanslope Park Laboratories developing an electronic machine for encrypting the human voice. The prototype 'Dalila' electronic voice encrypting machine was completed in July/August 1945. Just after the surrender of the German forces and ready for use in the subsequent European partition between East and West that marked the start of the Cold War
1945 Turing now at the National Physics Laboratory , London outlines his ideas for a single machine (computer) controlled by an executable programme. ACE computer project approved 1946.
1947 January Turing is invited to a conference at Harvard in the USA where he discusses his ideas with Von Neumann who is basing his development on using two seperate machines.
Back at the NPL Turing (without the resource to replace Flowers or Newman) struggles to develop his ideas into a working progammable computer that finally comes on line in August 1950. Two years after Newman's computer in Manchester,
Max Newman had been Turings professor of mathematics at Cambridge University.
1951 The second Newmann computer at Manchester University was the Ferranti MK1 1951 that was a development that was hoped would enable Britain to develop its own independent nucleur deterrent having been excluded from the USA nuclear project after the war.
Although it is apparent that Turing would never on his own have been capable of producing a reliable computer. History has honoured him with this achievement.
Turing's inability to identify and manage the need for seperate Hardware and Software development effectively left Flowers and his team playing bit parts in the film as dirty overalled university technicians.
When in fact they should have been cast in a leading role.
Turing was an innovator, a conceptualiser capable of original and lateral thinking and not a natural choice as project manager.
Here is an extract I have found taken from an obituary printed in the London Daily Telegraph of 14th November 1998
who has died aged 92, built Colossus, the world's first programmable
electronic computer, to help to crack Nazi Germany's most sophisticated
The success of the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park in breaking the Enigma code is well known. Flowers was involved in a perhaps even more remarkable achievement - the breaking of the encyphered teleprinter communications used by Hitler to talk to his generals. These encyphered transmissions, known at Bletchley as Fish, were even more difficult to break, and the codebreakers attempted to use a basic computing machine known as Heath Robinson to assist in the process. Heath Robinson was a mechanical computer based on the ideas of Alan Turing, the brilliant Cambridge mathematician who played a crucial role in the breaking of Enigma. But it had a series of teething problems and, in early 1943, Turing, who was aware of Flowers's work with telephone systems for the Post Office, at Dollis Hill, suggested that he be called in.
Flowers swiftly realised that the problems with Heath Robinson could never be solved, and he made the radical proposal that the mechanical switching units, which made up the bulk of the computer, should be replaced by valves. Flowers recalled later that his suggestion was met with disbelief on the part of the codebreakers who were convinced that valves were unreliable and would keep breaking down. Flowers, though, knew from his earlier work with the Post Office that if they were never moved or switched off valves would run and run.
|He succeeded in
persuading the codebreakers that valves would work, but then ran into a
second problem. They asked him how long it would take to produce his
machine. When he told them it could be done in a year, they replied that
this was no good, since by then Hitler would have won.
The codebreakers decided that they would have to continue with Heath Robinson despite its drawbacks. But Flowers was by now so convinced that his valve-built machine would work that he decided to build it anyway. He and his team at Dollis Hill constructed the first prototype in 10 months, working around the clock. Colossus, as it was to become known, was demonstrated at Bletchley Park on December 8 1943. The computer, designed to run through the many millions of possible settings for the code wheels on the German encyphered teleprinter system, was capable of processing 5,000 characters a second. But it was its accuracy in comparison with Heath Robinson that astounded the codebreakers. They set out to test it by setting up a problem to which they already knew the answer. Each run took about half an hour, and they let Colossus run for four hours. It solved the problem eight times, on each occasion coming up with exactly the same answer.
It was at once clear that Flowers's machine would be of inestimable assistance in helping the codebreakers to read communications between Berlin and all the German fronts. Perhaps more importantly, it was the first practical application of a large-scale programme-controlled computer, and as such the forerunner of post-war digital computers.
Flowers was born in London on December 22 1905. After a four-year
apprenticeship in mechanical engineering at the Woolwich Arsenal, he put
himself through night school and earned a degree in engineering from
London University. By day, he worked at the GPO's research station at
Dollis Hill. It was here that he began experiments with early electronic
systems that would form the basis not only for Colossus, but also for
advanced long-distance telephone systems that developed into modern direct
Following the success of Colossus Mark I, the Bletchley Park codebreakers asked Flowers to build an even bigger version, with 2,500 valves rather than the 1,500 employed in the prototype. Flowers recalled that they told him the new Colossus had to be ready by June 1944 or it would not be of any use. Although the reasons for the deadline were never disclosed, he immediately realised its significance and Colossus Mark II was in place at Bletchley Park on June 1, five days before D-Day.
Colossus was constantly updated; by the end of the war there were 10 in operation, manned 24 hours a day by Wrens working to the programmes laid down by the codebreakers.
At the end of the war, all but two of the Colossi were destroyed. Flowers was ordered to destroy all evidence that they had ever existed. The two surviving machines were taken first to Eastcote, west London, the first home of the new Government Communications Headquarters, and then to its present base at Cheltenham, where a Colossus was still operational in the early 1960s.
returned to the Post Office to continue his work on electronic telephone
systems, received a £1,000 award for his war work, barely sufficient to
pay off the debts that he had run up while developing Colossus. He was
also appointed MBE. But his role in the breaking of the Nazi codes and the
development of the modern computer remained a secret, even to his family,
for many years.
Flowers received an honorary doctorate from Newcastle University in 1977, and another from De Montfort University in Leicester.
Tommy Flowers is survived by his wife, Eileen, and their two sons.'
-- Alan Blannin
You have to ask why Britain failed to develop as a major force in the computer industry. Post war.
Part of the blame can be laid at the door of the Official Secrets Act.
The lack of vision of the post war British government.
The inability of Engineers to promote their ideas in a way that interests a scientifically illiterate controlling class and the financial institutions.
Fear of Cold War espionage. Fueled by the Cambridge graduates Burgess, MacLean, Kim Philby and Blunt recruited by Stalin's communist Russia.
A couple of questions come to mind for further research:
Was the Colossus ultra information supplied to the Russians. Who where also our allies.
In parallel with American and English
scientists at the end of forties, he developed the main principles of
construction and structure of electronic digital computers. Under his
management in 1948-1950, the first stored program computer in Ukraine,
Soviet Union and continental Europe was created. In 1951-1953, this
computer (MESM) solved very important problems from thermonuclear
engineering, rocketry, space flights, long distance electrical
transmission and so on.'
Did GCHQ supply Colossus machines to both the US and Russia to help the war come to a swifter conclusion.
Could Burgess and MacLean have divulged the workings of Colossus to the Russians.
Did a development of Colossus help with the calculations for designing the atomic bomb.
Britain had sent examples of Whittles jet engines and the 'Bletchley Bomba' to the US. So why not the colossus.
Did calculating machines like Colossus help speed up design programmes for the atom bomb, the first jet fighter and nuclear bomber aircraft.
1943 Bletchley Park, England
During the Second World War a dedicated team made up from Cambridge University mathematicians Max Newman and Alan Turing working with Tommy Flowers a GPO telecommunications electronics engineer. Had been set the objective of de-cyphering German high command coded communications.
What they achieved not only opened allied intelligence to the German War strategy but also produced the worlds first code cracking computer called 'Colossus'. Working on a system of thyraton triode valves this massive device would later be drastically reduced in size by replacing the valves with microcircuits and transistors.
So radically improving calculating speeds required for both designing rockets and calculating the orbits required to arrive at objectives like the moon and the planets.
Consequently in October 1957 when the engineers in the USA discovered that the USSR had launched the worlds first satellite 'Sputnik'. It had the effect of establishing Russian rocket technology superiority.
Recognising there inferior technological level. Engineers in the United States tried to understand why Russian rockets where more efficient.
They began to research and understand the importance of the works of Tsiolkovski.
Aided considerably by the development of electronic computers. They where then able to accelerate the design programme and pull ahead.
The invention of the computer could now offer a potential reduction in the research, design and the development phases of any project.
Calculations could now be carried out more quickly and re run to confirm initial results reliably.
Long complicated hand calculations that had previously taken a week to complete. Would now only take a matter of hours.
That said the computer cannot guarantee the quality of engineers and physicists who use them.
The old phrase 'Rubbish in rubbish out' is never more appropriate than when it is applied to computers.
One of the Mars lander probes crashed into the surface of the planet when somebody had mixed up the units of feet and metres in the flight approach control programme.
The quote issued to the press will almost certainly have claimed a computer error to be the cause of the problem.
Where ever you find good experienced professional engineers and physicists you will find. Simplicity and reliability.
'Colossus' is one of the greatest technological achievements in modern history
Reference site by Tony Sale on the Colossus and its rebirth at the Bletchley Park Museum.
' The Secret War' bbc Television series and book by Brian Johnson.
bbc World Series 'Genius' J. Clarkson
Alan Turing Life and Legacy of a Great Thinker by Christof Teuscher
Biography of Alan Turing
History of The Computer
Mind Map by John Gwynn All right reserved 2007
Mykhaile Krawtchouk 1938>1942 Kolyma Gulag
Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski 1934 >1939
Max Newman UK Sept 1942 > 1953......
Alan Turing US Princeton1936 > 1938 Electro mechanical Computer
Turing's 1936 paper 'On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem'
Definition of the Universal Turing machine.
Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, Series 2, 42 (1936-37): 230-265
Turing US Nov 1942 > March 1943
1945 Turing now at the National Physics Laboratory , London outlines his ideas for a single machine (computer) controlled by an executable
programme. ACE computer project approved 1946.
1947 January Turing is invited to a conference at Harvard in the USA where he discusses his ideas with Von Neumann who is basing his development on using two seperate machines.
John Von Neumann Visiting Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University 1936
US Princeton 1936 > 1938
Computer Lectures 8th July - 31st August 1946 US Moore School of Electrical Engineering ,University of Pennsylvania
Church US Princeton 1936 > 1938
The Moore School Lectures and the British Lead in Stored Program Computer Development (1946 -1953)( System Design , Technology )
In 1946 between 8th July and 31st August the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania held a special course entitled Theory and Techniques for Design of Electronic Digital Computers. The course was organized in response to interest generated by; the schools public announcement of the ENIAC, and the publication of The First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC. 1945 by Jon von Neumann. Attendance was by invitation only and the "Students" were selected from the leading experts at the major institutions working on the development of computing devices in the US and UK. At the time of this event there were only three published designs for a stored program computer and it was expected that all those present were familiar with these documents.
Within two years of these lectures the first stored program computer was operational, within 3 years there were 5 operational machines, and within 5 years stored program machines were commercially available. The Moore School Lectures, as they became known, were responsible for focusing all the leading developers of computing devices on a single problem:- How to design and build a stored program computer. It is interesting that despite being outnumbered and out-funded the British took, and held, the lead in this development effort between 1946 and 1953. In some areas such as business applications the British held the lead for much longer. How they were able to do this is not directly explained in any of the historical material available online, which tends to focus on individual development efforts and not on the larger picture.
Flowers digital high speed telephone switching using 3>4000vacuum thyristor valves 1934 GPO. To replace electro-mechanical relays
John Atanasoff Krawtchouk papers 1937>1938 Sept 1939 Navy Dept Washington DC > 1945
Iowa State Univ
Max Newman / F C Williams
Antikythera Mechanism second century BC
Charles Babbage 1822 Mechanical computer
Polish Bomba 3 Rotor 1934 Polish BS4
Turing Enigma Code Bomb 5 Rotor 1939
UK Bletchley Park
US Navy 110 Bomb for German and Japanese navy codes
Turing US Nov 1942 > March 1943
'Heath Robinson ' Prototype Sept 1942
Colossus 1 Geheimschereiber Code Tommy Flowers UK Feb 1943 > Dec 1943
Colossus 2 Tommy Flowers UK June 1944
ABC 1939-1942 John Atanasoff and Berry 300vacuum tubes
Digital machine for solving linear algebraic equations
ENIVAC 1946 J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly. Mathematician Goldstine
EDVAC 1951 John Von Neumann, Goldstien, Eckert and Mauchly.
Manchester Mk1 Max Newman June 1948 First fully programmable computer
Transistor version of the MMk1 ran in November 1953.
Among the Mark I team were mathematicians Conway Berners-Lee and Mary Lee Woods, who would later marry; their son,
Tim Berners-Lee, is acknowledged as the inventor of the World Wide Web.
Pilot ACE NPL Turing Detailed proposalOct > Dec1945
Full size ACE 1 1958
IAS John Van Neumann Princeton 1946 > 1952
Used the cathode ray tube memory developed at Manchester by F C Williams
From the start of World War 2, Von Neumann worked as a consultant to the military. He was a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee at the Ballistic Research Laboratories at the US Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland US , from 1940 onwards; a member of the Navy Bureau of Ordnance from 1941 to 1955; a consultant to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory from 1943 to 1955; and a member of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project in Washington, D.C., from 1950 to 1955.
As a member of the Navy Bureau of Ordnance from 1941 to 1955 Von Neumann would certainly have influenced John Atanasoff and introduced him to the ideas of Turing, Church and himself.
Alan Turing is known to have been involved with Von Neumann on several of his projects.
The transistor was discovered in 1947 by Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley USA. Appearing commercially in the early 1950's they became familiar in the late 50's and early 1960's when it was utilised to produce minature transitor radios in high volume.
Note: As a child I can remember a flood of brightly coloured minature transistor radios arriving in Britain during this period from Japan.
Minature or 'transistor radios' became portable and created an explosion of 24hrs information, music, sport etc.
That ignored international boundaries.
One classic example of the newly found freedom of information and education. Was the bbc world service.
Parallel to this more reliable transitors where being developed for speeding up calculating machines required for nuclear and defence design work on aircraft and space rockets.
With proven reliability the next step was to incorporate transitors into fighter aircraft to help pilots navigate and assume roles like auto pilot for poor visibilty or night landing.
Reference: 'Electronics' Eyewitness Science Guide by Dorling Kindersley.
' I'Electronique' by Gallimard. French version isbn 2-07-058342-2
Guy Francis de Moncy Burgess (1910-1963), BBC broadcaster, agent in MI6, secretary to Deputy Foreign Minister, Hector McNeil, British Foreign Office secretary, London, Washington
Anthony F. Blunt (1907-1983), tutor of French, art historian, art adviser to Queen Elizabeth, agent in MI5 during World War Two, "The Fourth Man"
Donald Maclean (1915-1983), Foreign Office secretary, Paris, Washington, Cairo, London
MacLean was seceretary to Hector McNeil (1907-1955) 1945 Deputy Foreign Minister in the Foreign Office 1945-50.
This would make the approval of a contract for the supply of Rolls-Royce Nene jet engines to Russia in 1946 an interesting coincidence.
Harold Adrian Russell ("Kim") Philby (1912-1988), journalist, agent in MI6, "The Third Man"
To set the scene we have to remember that these where intelligent inexperienced men who where recruited by the NVKD whilst they where young idealist students at Cambridge.
During the1920's like most students of there age (even those in Russia). The Soviet revolution seemed to offer an alternative to raw capitalism. The depression and the stock market crash during the late 1920's would give weight to this optimism. It was not until they learnt about the dictatorial Stalin purges that all was not as they imagined.
Once in the hands of the Russian NVKD there was no turning back. With, in the cases of Burgess and MacLean disillusion turning to alcoholism.
Background to Kim Philby:
After the First World War Kim Philby's father Harry St John Philby (1885-1960) worked in the Middle East for the British Foreign Office and had settled in Saudi Arabia after becoming suspicious of British motives in the region. Converting to Islam and resigning his post at The Foreign Office to become an advisor to King Ibn Saud in what is now known as Saudi Arabia. In 1930 he brokered an oil deal with the American Standard Oil Company for Saudi Arabia. Much to the disbelief of the British establishment who believed he was working for them. Strategically this bought the US into Middle East politics.
Consequences: Middle East unrest since the end of the First World War became worse after WW2. Israel, Palestine,
The 'Lawrence of Arabia' factor. The promise of the creation of an Independent Arab State post 1918.Where the British government failed to honour the promises given to the Arabs nations who fought with Lawrence against the Turks during theWW1. Laid bare the real intentions of Britain and France after the First World War. They could not be trusted. This was probably is what influenced both Kim Philby and certainly his father who was subsequently classed as an eccentric by the British establishment. I suspect that Harry St. John Philby could not accept the betrayal of Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab world.
and Click on Introductory biography.
What Kim Philby saw was that honour and human values where devalued and exchanged for a fortune....
During the Second world war the USSR was on the side of the allies and the Cambridge Four worked to fuse the all important link with Russia. Without whom Germany would not have been defeated.
Approximately 11,000,000 Russian soldiers and between a minimum of 7 and 20,000,000 Russian civilians died during WW2.known in the USSR as the Great Patriotic War for freedom?
This compared to 139,380 in Europe and a total of just over 400,000 soldiers lost by the US.
So the American John Wayne version of how the US won the Second World War has always been a little difficult for the Russians to accept. I imagine the Cambridge Four would have certainly felt the same indignation .
From an estimated pre war population in the USSR of 130,000,000 The USSR lost an estimated 20% of its population.
As a comparison the USA lost 0,31%.
A ratio of 65:1
Then all of a sudden the Russians (USSR) are our enemies.
Was this a repeat of the betrayal by the allies of 'Lawrence of Arabia' Russian style
The battle was a political one of security against insecurity. I'll leave you to work out which one is which..
This obviously causes a credibility problem for idealists who seek an alternative to capitalism.
That they where idealists is reinforced by the fact that they didn't receive any payment from the USSR for there parallel spying activity.
That many Russian students of the same age as the 'Cambridge Four' where initially carried along by the wave of euphoria that followed the revolution only to became progressively disillusioned with the subsequent 'straight jacket' of the communist state. (Stalin was paranoid about intellectuals) Proves they where not alone in initially hoping to create a better world.
Korolev, Glushko , Kondratyuk (Shargei) and Pasternak are just some examples.
Was there a deliberate attempt to counterbalance the power base of the USA post WW2 by leaking technological secrets to the USSR
Burgess, MacLean and Philby
Russian spies Burgess and MacLean worked in The British Foreign Office MI5. Effective from Late 1930's to 1951 when they both defected.
Could Burgess have had the possibility of easing the way for Rolls Royce to supply Nene jets engines to the Russians.
Philby worked for counter intelligence MI6. Effective late 1930's to 1963. KGB Colonel 1964>1988
Kim Philby certainly told the Russians about the cracking of the German Enigma code. His friends in MI6 would allow him access to Bletchley Park.
Did Philby with the help of Burgess and MacLean divulge the workings of Colossus to the Russians.?
bbc programme series
The more likely link between Colossus and the Russians was John Cairncross
John Cairncross ( 25th July 1913- 8th October 1995) was a British intelligence officer during World War II who passed secrets to the Soviet Union (our allies ) during the war.
Between 1941 and 1945, Cairncross supplied the Soviets with 5,832 documents, according to Russian archives
After graduating from Cambridge, he worked in the Foreign Office. In 1937 he joined the Communist party. In 1942 he worked on ciphers at Bletchley Park and MI6. During this time, he passed documents through secret channels to the Soviet Union. While at Bletchley Park, he supplied the Soviets with advance intelligence from ULTRA about what became the pivotal /critical Battle of Kursk. The information he supplied enabled the Soviets to keep their ciphers one step ahead of British /United States Intelligence, and also helped win the war against Hitler on the Eastern Front.
That Cairncross unlike the others was protected by the British until 1995 when his usefulness to the USSR was made public by two Soviet defectors. Could be an indication of the real importance he played in maintaining UK/ Russian communications during the WW2 when the common enemy was Nazi Germany. Cairncross is sometimes referred to as the Fifth Man .
Character of the Cambridge Four
Background reading 'The Cold War Experience' by Norman Friedman Published by Carlton books limited
Reference MIG 15 Korean War combat record.
There should be no doubt that he was the first to patent his ideas under British Patent No. 347,206 in January 1930.
That he was refused finance from the aircraft establishment to develop his ideas.. Until late 1939.
That the German embassy in London sent a copy of Whittles patent back to Germany in 1932 .When the patent was no longer protected due to lack of personal finance and entered the public domain.
That the subsequent effect of the jet engine on air travel has been significant.
History channel film of the Gloster Whittle jet 15th May 1941 Cranwell E28/39
IMechE short biography
Whittle - A short Biography|
Sir Frank Whittle, born in 1907, already as a young man in the 1920s had the vision of aircraft flying above the weather. This vision led him to the jet engine, a variant of the gas turbine. Frank Whittle took out his patent, British Patent No. 347,206 in January 1930. Whittle's first jet engine ran on 12th April 1937. Whittle was then just 30 years old. Whittle combined scientific genius with engineering talent and great design insight. These characteristics gave him the confidence to persist in the face of opposition and lack of recognition. Another of Whittle's undoubted strengths was his training and education. Whittle himself says that: "I must point out that a factor which contributed greatly to the work has been the very fine training I have received in the Royal Air Force".
The magnitude of Whittle's achievement can perhaps be appreciated by recognising that the world's three major "Prime manufacturers" of gas turbines, namely Rolls-Royce, Pratt and Whitney and General Electric all started their gas turbine businesses based on Whittle's W2/700 gas turbine. The W2/700 was used by Rolls-Royce to launch the Welland, which was followed by the Derwent, Nene and Tay. Pratt and Whitney entered gas turbines soon after the Second World War, using the Rolls-Royce Nene to form the basis of their J42. General Electric's first gas turbine, the 1-A, from which the J31 was derived, was based directly upon Whittle's W2/700 gas turbine. Whittle's early simple engine eventually resulted in today's large and complex industry.
The humble T.E. Lawrence who was promoted to cult status as Lawrence of Arabia by american photo reportage Lawrence had believed would report the fight for an Independent Arab State. Read ' The Seven Pillars of wisdom' Oxford edition.
The American film 'Lawrence of Arabia' was good at the box office but failed to give a true portrait of Lawrence's fight for an Independent Arab state.
T E Lawrence was left disillusioned by both the continual inter Arab state disputes for overall power in the region and the Western powers who manipulated the situation to justify the unfeasibilty of an independent Arab State and instead impose Western control of the region. That would secure the vast oil resource for there growing economies in the post coal era.
Conrad Zuse and the German Z4
November 2006 issue Pour La Science.
Dedicated to Alan Turing
21 novembre 2003 14:06
IEEE References to T.H. Flowers
 H. Campaigne Foreword to T.H. Flowers, "The Design of Colossus," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 239-252, July 1983.
 B. Randell, "The Colossus," in N. Metropolis et al., eds., A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century.New York: Academic Press, 1980, pp. 47-92.
 S. Lavington, Early British Computers.Bedford, Mass.: Digital Press, 1980, especially Chapter 5.
 T.H. Flowers, "The Design of Colossus," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 239-252, July 1983.
 F.W. Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret.New York: Harper & Row, 1974.
Charles Babbage (1791-1871) Analytical engine. Science Museum London
Nova Transcript 'Decoding the Nazi secrets' PBS Airdate: November 9, 1999
WW2 Battle of the Atlantic U Boat attacks
|Antikythera Mechanism Ancient Greek analogue computer|
The Antikythera Mechanism: Is a 2nd century BC Ancient Greek astronomical analogue computer.
What’s left of the ‘Antikythera Mechanism’ comprises three heavily corroded bronze fragments containing at least 30 interlocking gear-wheels. The surface of which are covered with astronomical inscriptions and instructions, written in Greek.
Before it was lost in a ship-wreck near the Greek island of Antikythera in 85BC and left to corrode on the sea bed for 2000 years. It is thought to have been used to compute and display the relative movement of the Sun, the Moon and possibly the displacement of 5 other planets in our solar system compared to the Earth. Amazingly it incorporated the 223 month, Saros cycle that would enable it to predict accurately the dates of future eclipses. Indicating that a detailed knowledge of our solar system existed from which the mechanism could be designed.
It dates from around the 1st or 2nd
century B.C. and is the most sophisticated mechanism known to have
survived from the ancient world. Nothing as complex is known for the next
Could this be connected to the work by Hipparchos in the 2nd century BC to understand the elliptical orbit of the moon?
Cicero, writing in the first century BC, mentions an instrument "recently constructed by our friend Poseidonius, which at each revolution reproduces the same motions of the sun, the moon and the five planets." Archimedes (circa287-212BC) is also said to have made a small planetarium, and two such devices were said to have been rescued from Syracuse when it fell in 212BC. Recent research on the Antikythera mechanism, indicates that such references can now be taken literally.
Hipparchus lived on the Isle of Rhodes between (140-120 BC).
Cicero also makes reference to Posidonius making a machine that modelled the movements of the moon and sun.
The Antikythera Research Project is a joint programme between Cardiff University, Athens University, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, X-Tek Systems UK and Hewlett-Packard USA, funded by the Leverhulme Foundation.
Did the Romans rewrite history and eliminate the importance of other civilisations?
and Celt where all thought of as barbarian by the Romans.
A classic example is that our current image of the Celts as a backward heathen civilisation is based solely on Roman history.
As an antedote to this image watch Brainy Barbarians by Terry Jones
Celtic calendar found in Celtic Gaul was morer advanced than the Roman calendar
Imperial College London. Michael Wright. Specialist in ancient mechanisms.
BBC Radio 4 History program 30mins > Listen to the broadcast recorded on 12th Dec 2006 Prog1< Click
Animation of the Antikythera mechanism
Article in Nature.
Where did there knowledge of astronomy come from?:
Hyperborean Druid culture
Pythagoras is reported to have visited Egypt and Babylon Where they knew about what we now know as the 'Pythagoras theorem' long before Pythagoras. Babylonian clay tablets dating from 1600-1650BC refer to the calculation of a 4, 5 ,3 right angle triangle.
The Roman historian Diodurus Siculus, the "universal historian" of the first century BC, describes the "Hyperborean" tribes of north of the Roman Empire:
Pythagoras is refered to as having been the pupil of 'Abaris' a Druid astronomer from a far northern region where the sun during a certain season never sets. Somewhere in the northern hemisphere where the summer days are long and the climate mild. Could this be The Hebrides warmed by the Gulf -stream Callenish Isle of Lewis. Has the climate today changed dramatically since 600BC?
Strabo(63-21BC) refers historically to the famous visit of Abaris to Athens.
Writings by Cicero, Caesar, Pliny Tacitus and others refer to the knowledge of the Druid astronomers.
In ancient Greece the pursuit of knowledge was the ultimate objective in life. Subsequently a profound knowledge discovered in other cultures or people commanded considerable respect.
Greek >Mechanical: Means behaving like the universe.
Greek > Anthropos: Means human.... the one who sees the sky.
Pythagoras ( circa 570BC-507BC )
Some important dates in the history of astronomy:
Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543)
Theory of a Sun centered universe based in part on a translation of earlier Arab astronomical observation data
Planetary motion theory is attributed to two Europeans astronomers.
Tycho Brahe (1546-1601)
Johanes Kepler (1571-1630).
Greek texts and writings frequently avoid references to knowledge learnt from earlier civilisations.
Knowledge acquired from other civilisations and written in Greek becomes the origin of knowledge.
Herodotus 440BCE Refers to the Hyperboreans living to the north of the Scythians. Talks about Delian past history when Hyperboreans sent gifts to Delos via the Scythians
Newton Project reference to Hyperborean link with ancient civilisation where the astronomical and philosophical tradtion of ancient Greece integrated the knowledge from earlier civilisation . The Isle of Lewis fits well with the description of the island with a temple of Apollo.
Extract from lien below refering to Abaris
Hyperborean came from a land beyond the northern winds
Another devoted preacher of Apollo’s cult throughout Greek lands was Abaris, whose origin was also in Hyperborean lands, a man who, through his great feelings of justice and his extremely frugal life, had been a real sensation among the Greeks. He used to show the people an arrow, which he said was the symbol of Apollo. He composed and distributed diverse prophetic sentences of his god, and healed the sick with incantations .
[4. The time in which Abaris lived is uncertain. Hyppostratus places him during the 3rd Olympiad, around 768bc, while Suidas places him during the 53rd Olympiad, around 568bc.
This name has been transmitted to us in a form more or less altered. In Moldova, especially in the districts Falciu, Roman and Neamtu, we find 12 topographical names of Averesci. The name Averescu is also very much used in the parts of Moldova.
Virgil (Aen. IX.344) presents a soldier called Abaris. Abaris appears as Hyperborean with Herodotus (IV.36) and Plato (Charmides, c.6), while Suidas tells us that Pythagora (ad vocem) had been the disciple of Abaris the Hyperborean].
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