Colossus celebrates 70th anniversary

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Veterans of the world’s first electronic computer, Colossus, will gather today at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park for a special anniversary celebration.

The iconic computer celebrates its 70th anniversary and using a rebuild of the Colossus, visiting veterans and their families will be treated by the museum to a re-enactment of the code-breaking process, which played a pivotal role in bringing to an end World War II, saving countless lives.

Colossus, first used at Bletchley Park in 1944, was an enormous seven foot high machine that was the size of a living room, weighed five tonnes, and was connected by seven kilometres of wire. By the end of the war there were 550 people working on ten fully functioning Colossus computers, and they had deciphered 63 million characters of messages for the German High Command.

Despite being the world’s first electronic computer, news of its existence was kept top secret for 32 years because of the sensitivity surrounding the German encryption it helped to break, and it was not until October 1975 that the British Government broke its official silence. Colossus is now recognised as being a landmark achievement in British intelligence, and as a first step towards the digital computer.

Tim Reynolds, chairman of The National Museum of Computing, said of today’s event: “The achievements of those who worked at Bletchley Park are humbling. Today will be a proud day for the Museum to host the Colossus and Tunny veterans who are able to make the journey. This day is in honour of all the men and women who worked on breaking the Lorenz cipher.”

If you would like to learn more about the Colossus or The National Museum of Computing, you can visit The museum can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and on the dedicated TNMOC iPhone App available from the iTunes App store.

Picture shows Margaret Bullen, who wired the Colossi when it arrived at Bletchley Park