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Colossus: Bletchley Park's Last Secret: Bletchley Park's Greatest Secret [Kindle Edition]

Paul Gannon
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Book Description

'Gannon's book contains a mass of utterly fascinating and largely unknown material about an immensely important wartime project, and is very welcome indeed.' Brian Rendell, TES

In 1940, almost a year after the outbreak of the Second World war, Allied radio operators at an interception station in South London began picking up messages in a strange new code. Using science, maths, innovation and improvisation Bletchley Park codebreakers worked furiously to invent a machine to decipher what turned out to be the secrets of Nazi high command. It was called Colossus.

What these codebreakers didn't realize was that they had to fashion the world's first true computer. When the war ended, this incredible invention was dismantled and hidden away for almost 50 years. Paul Gannon has pieced together the tremendous story of what is now recognized as the greatest secret of Bletchley Park.

Product Description


A fascinating tour through the history of Colossus for the general as well as the technical reader -- Tribune

Colossus tells of the heroic efforts of the inventors and mathematicians [who] received no recognition for decades -- Times

Gannon's book contains a mass of utterly fascinating and largely unknown material about an immensely important wartime project -- THES

Masterly .. I commend the book to both the professional and the general reader - Bletchley Park veteran Donald Michie -- Spectator

read Gannon to feel the collective power of human minds harnessed to the cause of defending our freedom -- Guardian

About the Author

Paul Gannon writes on all aspects of information and communications technology.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1967 KB
  • Print Length: 562 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (5 Dec. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E78GDDY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #48,221 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Paul Gannon is science and technology writer and author with an interest in two areas: information technology and codebreaking; and the geology and scenery of Britain's top hillwalking areas. "My professional background is in information technology, but I've always been fascinated by the forces of natural world as well as of human ingenuity. I currently live in North Wales, an area which offers a great environment for a writer, though I have also lived and worked in London, South Wales, the Hague and Brussels at various times", says Paul.
"My books on British codebreaking during the first and second world wars are based on research in the National Archives, using files that have only recently been opened to public view." The full story of these amazing achievements is still shrouded in secrecy, but we do now have a much better view of what happened than ever before. These two books reveal how British codebreaking has wrongly been promoted as an amateur effort that just managed to achieve success. The books show how it developed into a highly efficient industrial operation.
"Even in the first world war, the codebreakers were devising how to use machines in their complex mental tasks", says Paul. "The story of Room 40, MI1(b) and GC&CS (Government Code & Cipher School) is much richer and more impressive than the official legends allow for. Sure there was bungling and error, but there was also incredible foresight, dogged determination and sheer brilliance - and plenty of room for eccentricity."
"Colossus in particular involves some complex sections on codebreaking, but these are books for the general as well as the specialist reader. My work as a writer has been about trying to explain complex technical or scientific concepts in plan English. I hope I have achieved that in the codebreaking books and also my books on geology and scenery of popular hillwalking areas. Walking the hills plays an important role in my writing and I have written a lot on geo-sciences as a journalist. The Rock Trails series was born out of this experience. There is a fantastic story to be told about geology and scenery - just as there is about British codebreaking - and I've tried to tell that story in a way that the ordinary landscape lover will appreciate."

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best "BP" book yet 3 Dec. 2007
Perhaps it is easier for a telecommunications engineer turned computer software engineer to read but I found the book to be compelling. The book is not only technically impressive, it rings true in the portrayal of the characters and their relationships. I think only the Post Office Engineering Department, later the P.O. Telecomms Business could have produced Tom Flowers. I worked with many like him, engineers with the intuitive flair necessary to create complex systems who entered the business at the very bottom and rose through it by merit.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars colossal achievment 22 Jan. 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having waited so long to hear more of the latest 'secrets' from Bletchley Park one might ask what else could possibly not have already been put into print. This book concentrates on Colossus, exposing a 30 year old smoke screen using the Enigma story to deflect attention away from another of their successes, protecting modern secrets of GCHQ. The book is well-written, contains references to supporting texts and tells a story which will be hard to follow. The book contains an accurate technical picture of the colossal achievments, perhaps close to the limits necesssary to still make the 60 year old machine a national secret.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I know the whole Bletchley Park story has been much covered and we risk 'book overload' but this is very special.

I bought 'Colossus' by Jack Copeland and others, mainly because Tommy Flowers wrote part of it - and it is an excellent book with many fine illustrations (which apparently you don't get on the Kindle version; this just confirms to me that there is no substitute for the printed page....) That book explains the day to day working of Bletchley during the war, and shows how Tunny, the teleprinter code was first broken and then broken regularly with the aid of Colossus.

Up until now, the Bletchley story has been all about Enigma, Alan Turing and fighting the U Boats etc. This turns out to have been a very deliberate deception by the powers that be; as important as that was, the real success of Bletchley was reading the Tunny decrypts and thus know what Hitler was telling his Generals about their order of battle. Enigma messages were short because they were a pain to encrypt and decrypt and could only be sent slowly by Morse code. Tunny was more complex than Enigma, automatically encrypted & decrypted and fast to send. It was used only by the German High Command between established communication centres. The messages were lengthy and very informative. For example, the Russians mainly won the pivotal tank battle of Kursk in July 1943 because Hitler insisted on knowing the battle plan beforehand, Bletchley read it, Churchill told Stalin in April 1943 and the trap was set for the Panzers. And General Eisenhower was a regular visitor to Bletchley in the days after D Day watching Tunny being decrypted to make sure that Hitler was still swallowing the deception of the main attack being against Calais - he was! No mention of THAT in the Enigma books......
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 11 May 2009
Paul Gannon's book on Colossus fills in a major blank in the story of Bletchley Park in WW2. It is sufficiently technical to give a picture of of Colossus and how it worked and includes a fascinating account of the strategic intelligence that it helped to provide. This book is an essential counterpart, equal in historical importance, to the numerous books on Enigma that have been published over the years.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible work, addictive reading !! 4 Jan. 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book was initially of interest to me because of my fascination with Colossus itself but it turned out to be a different experience to that I anticipated !!
There is actually relatively little detail of the Colossus machine itself, it is actually a massively detailed story of Bletchley Park and the incredibly skilled characters that comprised the UK's secret war winning codebreaking organisation. It is difficult to express the overwhelming detail in the book, and how it reveals just how fantastically difficult the decoding task was.
My knowledge of the cypher world is non existent, or it was before reading this book, but nothing prepares anyone new to codebreaking for the mind numbing complexity of it as revealed here ! In fact, for a non mathmatically minded reader it is necessary to scan read those sections dealing with the deeply technical to avoid becoming stalled ! Those parts would have to be re-read in conjunction with the impressively detailed appendices in order to develop an understanding.
However, don't let that deter you from buying this book, persevere and I promise you that that the reward more than compensates for your effort.
The story it reveals of WW2 is quite simple astounding and gives a completely new insight into what was actually required to assure victory. Without Bletchley Park, Colossus and the principal people involved, I am certain we would have lost WW2 !!
Information on Hitler, German Strategy, the numerous catastrophic errors made by the German war machine and in fact the allies, is quite simply mesmerising ! Especially for the casual WW2 historian like me.
This is very definitely a case of fact being stranger than fiction. Any movie made about WW2 upto now is quite simply nonsense.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I thought
Thought it was a novel until I started reading.
Published 11 days ago by Jean Ruffy
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
A comprehensive record of the subject
Published 11 days ago by William MacRae
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
By far the best book on the subject. An engrossing and rewarding read.
Published 13 days ago by MS C M DREW
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book. It looks at many of the ...
An interesting book. It looks at many of the aspects of the use of codes etc. & how they have developed over hundreds of years. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Mr. W. L.
5.0 out of 5 stars makes the deception game look like a pantomime
Still reading this, but it makes the deception game look like a pantomime. Brilliantly researched and opens the real secrecy behind enigma, Turing etc. which persists to this day!
Published 17 days ago by Peterob1
4.0 out of 5 stars Colossus
A full history of the first programmable computer. To be honest, the amount of information is daunting on occasions but I found it thoroughly enjoyable.
Published 21 days ago by JoRo
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very detailed and informative - just what I wanted!
Published 22 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 28 days ago by ENGINEJOHN 2009
5.0 out of 5 stars Decipher
Very interesting read.
Published 1 month ago by Keiakimbo
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book well worth the read.
Excellent book and now I've actually been to Bletchley park it is even better reading. I can recommend the book to all those interested in code breaking.
Published 1 month ago by Tam-Tam
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