The BBC has a story about the rebuilding of the Colossus…not the big stone guy, but the code-cracking computer that was h4x0ring the Germans during WWII. Tony Sale led a 14-year project to rebuild the device in an effort to preserve this bit of computing history.
Colossus is widely recognised as being one of the first recognisably modern digital computers and was developed to read messages sent by the German commanders during the closing years of WWII.
It was one of the first ever programmable computers and featured more than 2,000 valves and was the size of a small lorry.
Larger than a Hugh Laurie, though. Hmm. Anyway, the team will be pitting the device against modern computers in a competition to break codes created on the Lorenz SZ42, the same device that the German High Command used during the war to encrypt their messages.
It’s actually quite a feat that the Colossus was ever reconstructed, as it was broken apart after the war to protect it’s secrets. There were no diagrams available to help put it back together, just pictures to extrapolate from.
The German participants in the code-cracking challenge will transmit three enciphered messages – one hard, one very hard and one ultra hard.
It will be interesting to see whether this vintage single-purpose device is able to keep pace with modern computing tech. Very cool.