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Colossus: The Secrets of Bletchley Park's Codebreaking Computers

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  85 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
The American ENIAC is customarily regarded as having been the starting point of electronic computation. This book rewrites the history of computer science, arguing that in reality Colossus--the giant computer built by the British secret service during World War II--predates ENIAC by two years.
Colossus was built during the Second World War at the Government Code and Cyphe
Hardcover, 462 pages
Published May 4th 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published February 23rd 2006)
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Dec 28, 2008 Al rated it really liked it
Although a struggle to get through in places, overall, Colossus is a spell-binding chronicle of Bletchley Park, Britain's top secret agency charged with breaking of German military codes during World War II. The story is told from many viewpoints and many of chapters are written by the original masterminds of the operation. Due to the many authors, the story is a bit uneven and repetition abounds. But the latter is not all bad, since the subject matter can be confusing to the non-cryptologically ...more
Aug 20, 2014 Ian rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
At times the technicality of the mathematics beat me, but that's because I'm too lazy to put in the effort so no criticism of book or authors and please don't let that comment put anyone off!
Note that I said authors, as although Copeland is clearly the main author and editor there are about 15 contributors (including Roy Jenkins who worked as a code breaker at Bletchley Park before his career in politics). The book is a collection of stories by individuals who worked on breaking the "Tunny" ciph
Jakub Šimek
The book introduces some previously unknown (to the public anyway) information and dispels many common myths about code breaking in WW2 and about the birth of modern computing.
I appreciate the technical detail of the book, which lets you follow the logic that the code breakers used in order to 'beat' the ciphers and ciphering machines. Included is also a rather detailed explanation of the machines involved, with obvious emphasis on the German Tunny machine and the computers constructed to break
Jan 07, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it
Very informative. Contained a lot of information which was recently declassified, at the time of publishing.

A common misconception is that Colossus was created to break Enigma. That is incorrect. Previous machines had already accomplished that. Colossus was created to break the German Lorenz cipher, which wasn't nearly so portable as Enigma but was heavily used for orders to field units for the Wehrmakt and the Luftwaffe. Lorenz was a teleprinter, which took messages in punched tape, encrypted t
Apr 17, 2014 David rated it really liked it
For those who are fascinated by code-breaking this is a must read. The mathematics is beyond me, but there's more here. The characters who worked at Bletchley Park, the secrecy within the place. The worlds first real computer was Colossus. At wars end, everything was ordered destroyed. Britain could have been at the front of computer technology. Paranoia about military secrets set the country on a course from which it never recovered. Britain won the war, and lost it's empire. Churchill and othe ...more
Doug Haskin
Contains some interesting personal histories of code breaking and primitive computing at Bletchley Park, but much of the book is quite technical in nature and difficult to follow if you're not strong in mathematics.
Excellent thorough exploration if the ongoing at bletchley Park. The collection of essays introduces you to the concepts of the colossus in a way that any reader could understand and offers multiple perspectives on the people who worked there.
Dec 27, 2014 Angelica rated it really liked it
A somewhat dry but otherwise well-written history, written by the Colossus' constructors themselves. Essential to anyone with an interest in the history of computing.
Alain van Hoof
Jan 21, 2013 Alain van Hoof rated it it was amazing
A good balance between personal stories en technical details. After reading other books about Bletchley Park it looked like all was done there was decrypting Enigma, this books shows otherwise.
Jan 03, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it
We know about the Enigma machine but this is about Tunny, a more advanced machine used in the later parts of the war that the British also broke into. Based on material only declassified in 2000.
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Brian Jack Copeland is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand and author of books on computing pioneer Alan Turing.
More about B. Jack Copeland...

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