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Colossus has been Rebuilt

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the no-not-the-one-in-sardia dept.

Encryption 279

Max Driver writes "In celebration of D-Day, "Colossus", one of the earliest electronic code-breaking machines, has been rebuilt after ten years of effort by computer conservationists. Colossus was used to break the Lorenz cipher. This story is being reported by the BBC. Remarkably, the use of parallel processing (five tape channels) and short gate delay time (1.2 microseconds) allows the Colossus to match the speed of a modern PC."

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The Forbin Project (5, Funny)

Seumas (6865) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302195)

Phew. For a moment, I thought they were talking about this Colossus [imdb.com] .

An artificially intelligent supercomputer is developed and activated, only to reveal that it has a sinister agenda of its own

Re:The Forbin Project (2, Funny)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302423)

When I first saw it, I thought they were talking about THIS colossus [usf.edu] and I was very confused.

Colossus of Rhodes (4, Funny)

The Original Yama (454111) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302197)

When I read the headline I thought it was about the Colossus of Rhodes!

This is cool too :)

Re:Colossus of Rhodes (2, Funny)

Borg453b (746808) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302242)

My thoughts as well. I must have been playing too much civ :P

Re:Colossus of Rhodes (5, Funny)

ComaVN (325750) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302265)

Yeah, good for trade, but that is obsoleted by electricity, so why would anyone want to build that now.

Re:Colossus of Rhodes (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302447)

lol!!! exactly what i was thinking

Re:Colossus of Rhodes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302550)

In Soviet Russia, Colossus rhode you!

fp! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302198)

frist ps0t

Re:fp! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302218)

YUO FAIL IT!

(sigh) (5, Funny)

Lobo_Louie (545789) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302201)

... and the IRS still uses it to this day.

Fantastic (0, Offtopic)

RTPMatt (468649) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302210)

And just try to implement DRM!
not a chance baby! ;)

Reminder: (5, Informative)

JessLeah (625838) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302215)

It only matches the speed of a modern PC at the single task it was designed for. Think of it as a very old, very interesting DSP. (I recall the stories on SlashDot about how the GPUs on modern ATI/nVidia cards are "many times faster than P4s"... well, yes, but you can't run Linux on them...)

Re:Reminder: (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302240)

Don't tell that to the zealots! I expect to see a Mandrake for Radion distro next week some time.

Re:Reminder: (3, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302244)

It only matches the speed of a modern PC at the single task it was designed for.

Yeah, they're still trying to figure out how to make it crash as often.

Re:Reminder: (3, Funny)

The Original Yama (454111) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302324)

They had to wait for Bill and Paul to "develop the first programming language [microsoft.com] " before that was even possible.

Re:Reminder: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302543)

Paul Allen and Bill Gates create and sell their first product. Inspired by an article in Popular Electronics magazines, Allen and Gates develop a BASIC computer language for the Altair 8800.

Are you capable of reading English? I don't see that claiming to be THE first programming language. It might be THEIR first programming language.

Re:Reminder: (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302589)

Err. I am:
Using the Altair 8800, Bill Gates and Paul Allen develop the first programming language
Thats what it say, verbatim, (in the mid-70's section)

Not really (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302263)

I really put that down to two things:

1) Most people in England still only have 486 computers
2) He's talking about deciphering stuff off a paper tape, something a modern PC can't do at any speed
3) An old guy bragging about life's accomplishments (which is okay).

Don't get me wrong, this is a brilliant technical advance for the 1940's, but not even close to modern computer. This is really pandering to a British audience ("Look mates, at once time, we were the leaders in computer technology!")

Re:Not really (2, Interesting)

rosbif (71236) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302330)

Ah, the Dick Van Dyke theory of England (for those not aware, DVD played a cockney chimney sweep in the film "Mary Poppins", thereby setting back UK-USA relations a few decades)
1. Most people in England do not have computers based on 486s - I'd be surprised if it was more than 10%. I would suggest that low end P4s are in the majority
2. Any PC with a serial port can read a paper tape with a suitable paper tape reader attached (I've done this in the recent past)
3. Better than a kid whinging on about things that he doesn't understand.

BTW, I think you'll find "mates" to be an Aussie soubriquet, rather than an English one.

Re:Not really (1)

magefile (776388) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302390)

3. Better than a kid whinging on about things that he doesn't understand.

He puts it down to two things? I think you mean, "3. Better than a kid who can't count whinging on about things that he doesn't understand."

Re:Not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302487)

I agree. I hate when AC's mock the very flower of british technical prowness like that.

To think the entire british public has P4's. It shows the world how advanced we are! A lot of people still think we use Sinclairs (God bless Sir Clive), but most people in England, indeed in the EU are so advanced that if the Russians or Chinese would invade Surrey, it would change the entire technological balance of the world.

Did I mention that we invented GSM phones? Or the modern computer? The Beatles, James Bond, Julie Andrews, The Sex Pistols, Princess Charles, Tony Blair... the list is endless of what we as a nation have accomplished. While the sun may set on our geographic empire, the sun never sets on the British Technological Empire.

And if the goddamned scots would just leave, the place would be pretty much perfect.

Re:Not really (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302547)

Most people in England do not have computers based on 486s - I'd be surprised if it was more than 10%. I would suggest that low end P4s are in the majority

He never said they did. He just said that this would be an explanation of the performance claimed.

Any PC with a serial port can read a paper tape with a suitable paper tape reader attached (I've done this in the recent past)

I think he was joking, and using this to explain why a modern PC would be slower than a 60 year old valve based machine.

Better than a kid whinging on about things that he doesn't understand.

He wasn't. You were. It was a joke post to explain something that is apparently not the case. Don't take it so seriously.

Re:Not really (2, Informative)

Alan Partridge (516639) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302431)

We WERE the leaders of all kinds of technologies before the great post war brain drain. When China or India become more attractive places to work than the USA, expect to see engineers leaving in droves from YOUR country too.

And we still have some pretty fierce and innovative engineering companies, you might want to think about that next time you do anything on a computer whos CPU is based on an ARM core.

The ARM bombshell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302501)

" you might want to think about that next time you do anything on a computer whos CPU is based on an ARM core."

I'll be sure to keep that in mind.

Not that its likely to happen. But I will keep that in mind.

Re:Not really (5, Funny)

arevos (659374) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302469)

I really put that down to two things:

1) Most people in England still only have 486 computers
2) He's talking about deciphering stuff off a paper tape, something a modern PC can't do at any speed
3) An old guy bragging about life's accomplishments (which is okay).


At least we can count.

Re:Reminder: (5, Informative)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302295)

I recall the stories on SlashDot about how the GPUs on modern ATI/nVidia cards are "many times faster than P4s"... well, yes, but you can't run Linux on them...

To elaborate:

GPUs still only run at a couple of hundred of MHz, but their dedicated circuitry allows them to perform certain matrix calculations much faster than x86 chips currently do, even with vector instruction extensions like MMX and SSE/SSE2.

Here are a couple of links to relevant articles. (1 [slashdot.org] 2 [slashdot.org] )

Re:Reminder: (1)

hype7 (239530) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302584)

GPUs still only run at a couple of hundred of MHz, but their dedicated circuitry allows them to perform certain matrix calculations much faster than x86 chips currently do, even with vector instruction extensions like MMX and SSE/SSE2.


Which is why Apple [apple.com] and soon Microsoft [microsoft.com] with Longhorn (if they ever get around to shipping it) will be using graphics cards for a select number of display compositing tasks.

It frees up the CPU, and can do it wayyy faster.

-- james

maybe... (2, Informative)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302458)

I have seen a project to run programs on a gpu, with BrookGPU [stanford.edu] .
It would only be applicable for certain applications, but some of the things that a graphics card excels at (I think) are linear algebra, vector manipulation, and some other number-crunching activities.
You can't run linux on it though, just programs written in Brook Stream language (an extension of ANSI C).

My Johnson (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302216)

Colossus is the size of my cock.

Clever use of what you have... (2, Insightful)

jarich (733129) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302219)

Just goes to show what can be done when you are clever about using what you have.

Re:Clever use of what you have... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302262)

Yeah, that's what I keep trying to tell my wife, but she still wants me to order that free trial of Enzyte....

Re:Clever use of what you have... (2, Insightful)

Analogy Man (601298) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302364)

Neccesity is the mother of invention. If the fate of the world is at stake one can become very inspired.

The challenge for each of us is to find a way to change the world with what we do.

At the beginning of my career 14 years ago flying home from my first big interview I talked at length with someone on an airplane about a literature, travel, educational background etc. he summed up his career with "I sell sunflower seeds for human consumption" although someone needs to do it I suppose, sadly many of us spend more than half of our waking hours on occupations no more inspiring.

Re:Clever use of what you have... (1)

SteveAyre (209812) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302510)

Actually, the ideas are always around.

It's just at those times the governments are willing to chuck as much money at any ideas that'll help them as they need to to get them to work.

In more peaceful times getting funding is like getting blood out of a stone.

good design (4, Interesting)

millahtime (710421) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302237)

Remarkably, the use of parallel processing (five tape channels) and short gate delay time (1.2 microseconds) allows the Colossus to match the speed of a modern PC."

This definitely shows you what a good design can do. WIth all the advancement I expected that thing to be slower than my TI-89 calculator.

Re:good design (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302318)

It probably would be...if you tried to crack the same ciphers that the Colossus Mk2 was intended to break.

Re:good design (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302446)

And your assuming that the TIs' are a good design? :)

A tragedy (5, Insightful)

sql*kitten (1359) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302239)

From the article:
After the war, most of the machines were scrapped to protect their sophisticated secrets.
If the British Government hadn't been so short-sighted, the UK now would be the centre of the global computer industry. Aye, but they threw away aerospace too. Always, Britain invents, loses interest, and the rest of the world reaps the spoils.

Re:A tragedy (5, Informative)

Polkyb (732262) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302311)

I saw a documentary on this a few weeks ago... Apparently, all the parts that went into making the beasties was "borrowed" from British Telecom. After the war, they just gave the parts back.

Re:A tragedy (3, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302334)

Apparently, all the parts that went into making the beasties was "borrowed" from British Telecom. After the war, they just gave the parts back.

Reminds me of something I heard about the Manhattan Project, which was a similar exercise in rounding up every geek in the country and making them do cool secret stuff... Apparently they couldn't get the copper wire they needed for the electromagnets used in refining their uranium, so they just took all the silver out of Fort Knox and made it into wire. Melted the lot down after the war and put it right back, no harm done...

Of course that makes me wonder what Auric Goldfinger was thinking of. America's loot stash is already radioactive! :-)

Re:A tragedy (4, Informative)

CdBee (742846) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302312)

It was destroyed so other countries would never find out we could break their ciphers. It still needed to be secret after WW2

Re:A tragedy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302325)

And before that they failed to captialize on their discoveries in chemistry, leaving most of the chemical industry to the Germans (and you know what happened then).

Re:A tragedy (5, Insightful)

eggoeater (704775) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302328)

In one of James Burke's documentaries he talked about Britian basically "inventing" the fabric dying process (maybe in the early 1800s) but British industry never did anything with it. The Germans jumped on it and cornered the dying/fabric market, which bootstrapped their economy into the powerhouse it became until their defeat in WWI.
So it does seem the UK has a track record here...

Wait! Wait! there's a pattern here (1, Insightful)

nounderscores (246517) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302369)

Britain invents, loses interest, somebody else commercialises, and then Britain still wins the war.

How do those Brits do it?

Re:Wait! Wait! there's a pattern here (1)

TGK (262438) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302401)

Easy. Unless the invention is some major breakthrough in naval warfare the Brits don't loose interest.

Since you need either boats or a well trained swim team to invade the UK they're good to go for the most part as long as they maintain naval superiority.

That's why the battle for the Atlantic was so important.

Re:Wait! Wait! there's a pattern here (1, Flamebait)

kraut (2788) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302402)

Actually, it was mainly the Americans wot won the wars, combined, of course, with magnificent stupidity in the German leadership in both cases.

Re:Wait! Wait! there's a pattern here (4, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302485)

Really? I thought it was the millions of Russians who died. The Americans got anywhere _near_ the war after the Russians were already stopping the Germans.

And those strategic bombings never did much damage either. In fact, it cost the US far more to bomb Germany, than it cost Germany to rebuild the odd factory that got hit by a bomb and replace/repair the fighters.

Now I'm not saying that US didn't help, and we're all grateful for that. (If nothing else, otherwise the whole Europe would have ended up communist.)

But, no offense, claiming to basically have singlehandedly won the war is a tad shameless. Without the USSR to hammer the Germans from the other side, and without the UK as a base, the US wouldn't even have made it onto the European mainland. Much less beatten Germany.

Re:Wait! Wait! there's a pattern here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302545)

Indeed. American losses in WW2 were approx 400,000. Russian losses were computed on the basis of depopulated square miles of Russia.

Certainly we in Europe are grateful to America for its help, but despite what Hollywood may suggest, America didn't single handedly win the war.

Re:Wait! Wait! there's a pattern here (-1, Flamebait)

rash (83406) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302404)

the russians won the war, the brits only took the credit

Re:Wait! Wait! there's a pattern here (1)

Alan Partridge (516639) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302444)

Not true!

The Americans ALWAYS take the sodding credit.

Re:Wait! Wait! there's a pattern here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302488)

But at current APR, the interest is building up nicely.

Re:Wait! Wait! there's a pattern here (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302465)

Having a massive Empire providing income and troops didn't hurt.

UK track record (3, Funny)

pommiekiwifruit (570416) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302373)

OK, so we tossed away the computer, aerospace, and other industries.

But look at the popularity of the ideas we exported; why, in central London a pub has a sign outside saying it was where the Communist Manifesto was launched, and offering themed lunches (borscht etc.) (oddly I can't remember a similar sign outside the hofbrauhaus in Munich). Who would have thought that would take off?

Re:UK track record (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302481)

It may be the pub frequented by Carl Marx, he lived and died in London. He lies buried next to his wife at Highgate Cemetery in London.

Re:A tragedy (2, Interesting)

jdtanner (741053) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302426)

Not the only thing us Brits have missed out on I'm afraid... The integrated circuit [bbc.co.uk] RSA encryption [theregister.co.uk] Doh!

It matches the speed of a modern PC? (0, Flamebait)

bfg9000 (726447) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302241)

Jeez, here it comes -- someone's gonna tell me Colossus is faster than my Mac. Gentlemen, warm your PCs! It's BENCHMARK TIME!!!

Re:It matches the speed of a modern PC? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302284)

Yea, but that Gentoo build is a real son-of-a-bitch.

Free information. (3, Insightful)

chuck54 (701897) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302253)

This to me illustrates the need for free information. If information about this machine had been made public in the years after the war, we may now have been a good few megahertz ahead of our selves in computer technology.

Re:Free information. (4, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302279)

If information about this machine had been made public in the years after the war, we may now have been a good few megahertz ahead of our selves in computer technology.

I seem to remember hearing that a lot of Third World countries carried on using the German cryptosystems for a long time after the war, and that was why all the Bletchley technology was kept black - we rather liked being able to read everyone's mail. Don't know how true that is, though...

IIRC, GCHQ also invented the RSA cipher years before it was discovered in the civilian world. Damn shame we didn't get to cash in on that one :-)

Re:Free information. (2, Interesting)

FraggedSquid (737869) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302354)

At the end of the war, the British Gov gave Enigma machines out to various bits of the Commonwealth to use. I think that this is mentioned in Simon Singhs The Code Book, but I could be wrong.
Nobody in the outside world, not even the Germans(though some has suspected), knew that Enigma had been broken till IIRC the 1960's.

Re:Free information. (5, Interesting)

ezzzD55J (697465) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302420)

I seem to remember hearing that a lot of Third World countries carried on using the German cryptosystems for a long time after the war, and that was why all the Bletchley technology was kept black - we rather liked being able to read everyone's mail. Don't know how true that is, though...

Well, there is something related here; Dennis Ritchie dabbles in cryptography [bell-labs.com] . He talks about cryptanalysis of the hagelin m-209b [iacr.org] crypto device (I bought one on ebay :)). They submitted their findings for voluntary review by the NSA before publishing, and Ritchie was visited by a "Retired Man" from the NSA. The relevant bit:

He got a bit more specific about two things: the agency didn't particularly care about the M-209. What they did care about was that the method that Reeds had discovered was applicable to systems that were in current use by particular governments, and that even though it was hard to imagine that these people would find the paper and relate it to their own operations (which used commercially-available crypto machines), still... perhaps we should exercise discretion? It was certainly legal to publish, but publication might cause difficulties for some people in the agency.
Full story in the first link.

So, even though this has nothing to do with the UK and colossus/enigma/lorenz directly, it still is a similar story.

Wikipedia Article (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302258)

Wikipedia on karma whoring (0, Offtopic)

CrystalFalcon (233559) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302338)

Re:Wikipedia on karma whoring (1)

Squirrley (708130) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302571)

I don't think that karma whoring is actually mentioned in the article.

... but does it run Linux ? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302266)

How about BeOS ?

A modern PC could emulate it in physics! (2, Insightful)

pslam (97660) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302269)

Remarkably, the use of parallel processing (five tape channels) and short gate delay time (1.2 microseconds) allows the Colossus to match the speed of a modern PC

Er, this is an obviously ridiculous statement. A modern PC is such an order of magnitude faster that it could probably run equations simulating the circuit behaviour itself and still run real time. Compare 1,000 values at 1MHz (which it probably isn't anywhere near in reality), and a slow tape data input (even with 5 of them), to 10 million transistors at 3GHz.

Funny thing is so many people seem to think there's nothing odd about it.

Re:A modern PC could emulate it in physics! (3, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302310)

Yes but you have to remember that it was built to do one specific thing. When you design something for a single use, you get to make all sorts of assumptions which will allow you to optimize very very much. My DVD recorder is probably hundreds of times slower then my Athlong 64 system yet no matter what software I use it records video smoother with fewer frame drops. On the PC something happens like it becomes neccecary to flush the disk buffer and it will drop a frame, its hardly perceptable but sometimes you can detect it. PCs are so universal that you get to make few if any assumptions and that means more processing time. I imagine if you tried to write software for this thing to say transcode mp3 files to odd or something riddiculus like that your PC would finish months before this machine does.

Re:A modern PC could emulate it in physics! (3, Interesting)

FraggedSquid (737869) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302321)

Quite a few years ago there was an interview with one of the guys who worked on the Colossus. He stated that he had produced a machine code implementation of the task and ran it on the best PC he could find (may have been a PI or PII), expecting the PC code to run faster. He was surprised to find that Colossus was still much faster.

Re:A modern PC could emulate it in physics! (5, Insightful)

MancDiceman (776332) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302346)

Don't talk utter rubbish. You should be modded down for being a crank.

This is custom hardware designed for the job. MHz and GHz don't come into it. If you don't believe me, consider why the processor on so many graphics cards is slower than the CPU in the machine, yet without it, the graphics would grind to a halt. A modern PC is a general tool - Colossus wasn't, and was specifically designed and built to break crypto as quickly as possible. Now, if you were to try and run Pong on it, fair enough, you'd find it incredibly slow... but that's not what it's there for. Colossus would however easily crack Enigma codes quicker than your over-clocked P4. And it probably doesn't have as many neon lights in it.

Funny thing about slashdot - people seem to think they know all about hardware because they know the difference between a MHz and a GHz.

Re:A modern PC could emulate it in physics! (1)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302389)

Colossus would however easily crack Enigma codes quicker than your over-clocked P4.

Minor nit: Lorentz != Enigma.

You're not getting the order of magnitude (1)

pslam (97660) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302538)

This is custom hardware designed for the job. MHz and GHz don't come into it. If you don't believe me, consider why the processor on so many graphics cards is slower than the CPU in the machine, yet without it, the graphics would grind to a halt.

(repeat subject line here) A modern PC is 2-3GHz, can compute 3 general purpose 32 bit operations per cycle, and has a gate count of about 50 million. Colossus is sub-1MHz, computes "100 bits per cycle" (hard to tell from article text) and has a gate count of 1,000. It also has a tape input which probably amounts to about 25KB/sec (so I am told).

No amount of specific purpose machinary is going to catch up with that order of magnitude difference. Please, I can easily imagine simulating the analog signals going through the 1,000 or so valves in real time on a modern PC, let alone emulating it digitally.

Re:A modern PC could emulate it in physics! (1)

garethwi (118563) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302365)

Yes, but the Colossus doesn't run XP

Re:A modern PC could emulate it in physics! (1)

Viceice (462967) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302438)

Add to that, the writers "modern PC" is a modern in 1996. Which was what? a 486?

So while he may have been correct at the time the various parts of the project was underway, it's not true now.

Imagine... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302273)

A beowulf cluster of these things!

(sorry. No. Really. Sorry!)

Re:Imagine... (1, Funny)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302360)

Back then, you have to imagine an Odysseus cluster of these things.

Re:Imagine... (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302374)

Well, they did run ten of these things simultaneously, each one working on a different chunk of the problem.

What about... (0, Redundant)

etnoy (664495) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302276)

Can I run Linux on it?

The REAL Wikipedia article. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302283)

Not that troll link, the real one [wikipedia.org] . If it goes wrong, then revert the changes to get the real article!

Civ (1)

Doomrat (615771) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302286)

This gave me flashbacks of playing Civ II.

Ugh, and now I have to go play it instead of going to work. Trying to get fired is fun.

The Atanasoff-Berry Computer is slighted again (1)

ddkilzer (79953) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302292)

The article mentions ENIAC, but not the Atanasoff-Berry Computer [iastate.edu] which pre-dated it, and which ENIAC was largely based upon.

For more information, read "Atanasoff: Forgotten Father of the Computer [amazon.com] ".

Let the british have their moment in the sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302533)

Stop it. They think they invented the computer, and its something for them to hold onto.

If you puncture that, they may try to invade Wales to compensate. Probably build a lot of pointless castles, put men in funny tin suits, and force us to watch a lot of unentertaining films about camelot.

Pathetic.

Re:The Atanasoff-Berry Computer is slighted again (1)

psyberjedi (650736) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302564)

It is greatly disputed whether or not the atanasoff was actually the basis for ENIAC.

The atanasoff must be widely accepted as the predecessor before complaining that it is being slighted.

Support Bletchley Park (5, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302304)

The work has been done at Bletchley Park [bletchleypark.org.uk] by volunteers. Normally the Colossus machine is being rebuilt there and you can watch the guys working on it and ask them questions. I was at Bletchley Park (home of Station X, the UK codebreaking centre in World War 2) yesterday, brilliant, well worth a visit. It's run as a trust, by volunteers. They need your support. Bletchley Park receives no public funding. To date, the Trust has raised over 1 million in its fight for survival. A further 4.5 million is needed now to fund essential staffing, building refurbishment, infrastructure, planning and marketing costs. They are just about to lose 20 acres of the site to a private developer building a housing estate, and half the original Huts are falling down. The hut Alan Turing worked in has some of its windows covered with chipboard because the windows are broken and they don't seem to have the money to replace them. The paint is peeling and the wood is rotting, the wall round it has fallen over in parts.

The code breakers in these small prefabricated huts probably shortened the war by two years and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Surely us geeks can help save this site and remember their contribution? If you can't get there to volunteer, maybe use their online form and give them a small donation? Their website is going to be slashdotted at this rate, so how about slashdotting their intray with donations?

Re:Support Bletchley Park (2, Informative)

moviepig.com (745183) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302397)

FWIW, the film ENIGMA [imdb.com] is a romanticized but entertaining thriller about another important, earlier (than Colossus), Bletchley Park decryption mechanism.

but don't mention U-571 :-) (2, Informative)

fantomas (94850) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302474)

...but if you get to Bletchley Park, for goodness sake don't mention the film U-571 [imdb.com] :-) the retired UK military people who are the tour guides get a bit twitchy that Hollywood makes out it was the US Navy and not the Royal Navy (UK) who grabbed vital code books from a sinking U-boat (which I think was actually U-110). (actually they are quite relaxed and happy to correct/ give more info , plus the U571 film makers donated a couple of huge u-boat props which are in the grounds of BP).

Re:Support Bletchley Park (0)

jdtanner (741053) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302480)

I only live 100 yards away...pop in for a cup of tea :-)

Go and visit Bletchley Park! (4, Interesting)

salmacis2 (643788) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302314)

Colossus, and indeed the rest of the Bletchley Park operation was a tremendous example of war-time ingenuity.

I would urge all UK-based \.ers to go and visit Bletchley Park as soon as possible. It's an amazing day out. It's just sad that the UK government doesn't appear to recognise the historical significance of BP and spend whatever is required to restore the site. Hut 6 and Hut 1, where most of the decoding was done are practically falling down these days.

Re:Go and visit Bletchley Park! (5, Funny)

pklong (323451) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302361)

Oh great, a load of Slashdotters turning up. I can just imagine the poor guides when they ask the obligatory "Does anyone have any questions?".

Also they had better rope off the area properly or for some reason the machine will print out "Visit my 1337 site goatse" or "First Post" constantly.

The real real wikipedia article (no troll) (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302327)

This is the real one! [wikipedia.org] . Ignore the other ones, this is the REAL wikipedia link. Verify it for yourself!

We can rebuild him.... (1)

millahtime (710421) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302335)

Make him faster, stronger.....

glowbull warmongering funds to be redirected? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302336)

reverberations to be felt by supporters of mag-lev, hydro, other alternative transportation, & the growing # of hungry/sick babies, & their parents, neighbors, infinitum?

Re:glowbull warmongering funds to be redirected? (0, Offtopic)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302430)

I think that is the Mother of All Trolls, but Babelfish couldn't quite handle it properly.

Typical Slashdot response (-1, Redundant)

Gax (196168) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302408)

>short gate delay time (1.2 microseconds) allows >the Colossus to match the speed of a modern PC."

Typical Slashdot responses:
1) Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these....
2) Colossus is dead. Let it rest in peace.
3) COLOSSUS RUNS LINUX AND QUAKE!!!! I AM L33T!

Really the First 'Computer'? (5, Informative)

Geiger581 (471105) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302410)

The Colossi were not programmable (they just did precisely one thing rather well), so it may be hard to consider them computers in all possible senses. Konrad Zuse's Z3 (Wikipedia Link [wikipedia.org] ) was also completed two years prior and was Turing complete, so it's hard to really give Colossus any credit other than the impact it had on the war.

I'll bite (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302417)

Remarkably, the use of parallel processing (five tape channels) and short gate delay time (1.2 microseconds) allows the Colossus to match the speed of a modern PC.

Thus begging the inevitable question:
Can you imagine a beowulf cluster of these?

Colossus - the movie. (-1, Redundant)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302436)

Colossus: The Forbin Project [imdb.com] - a very very very nice movie and story. even now.

intersting book on colossus... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302453)

One of my grad school professors wrote a detailed book on colossus as a project to keep him busy in retirement.

"From Fish to Colossus: How the German Lorenz Cipher was Broken at Bletchley Park"

by Harvey Cragon

On amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/09 74 304506/qid=1086095280/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-610257 7-9835954?v=glance&s=books

I proofread an early copy of the book and it was quite interesting how the cryptanalysis was done and even more impressive what these people accomplished with technology that was, to quote Spock, not much removed from bearskins and stone knives.

I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302505)

...welcome our new code-breaking overlord...

no really, please don't arm those nukes...

yes modern PC. I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302516)

Remarkably, the use of parallel processing (five tape channels) and short gate delay time (1.2 microseconds) allows the Colossus to match the speed of a modern PC.

Hmm .. that translations to 1.2 microseconds per instruction?

Yes, I'd even dare say that it's *faster* than a modern PC. ..

Running Windows that is.
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