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The Colossus Computer (1943-1996): And How it Helped to Break the German Lorenz Cipher in WWII [Paperback]

Tony Sale
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
Price: 3.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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The Colossus Computer (1943-1996): And How it Helped to Break the German Lorenz Cipher in WWII + Colossus: The secrets of Bletchley Park's code-breaking computers
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Product details

  • Paperback: 20 pages
  • Publisher: M.& M.Baldwin (1 Nov 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0947712364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0947712365
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 14.2 x 0.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 599,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Publisher

This is an unashamedly modest booklet, designed to provide basic information for those who know little or nothing about Colossus. It is based on a talk which the author gives to visitors to Colossus at Bletchley Park. As he was repeatedly asked by these visitors if they could have a written version of his talk, he decided to meet their requests by preparing this booklet. It thus fills a genuine need for an authoritative introduction to its subject - and who is better able to provide it than the man who masterminded the rebuild of Colossus? It may be brief, and it's certainly cheap, but that doesn't make it worthless. Even in 2008 you can still find writers in (for example) The Times claiming totally erroneously that Colossus was used to break Enigma codes.
If such writers had read Tony Sale's excellent booklet, they might get the story right. Until then, I suggest that the vitriol be reserved for writers who get things wrong, not for writers who provide useful introductions to complex subjects.

About the Author

Tony Sale is a retired Intelligence Officer who now devotes his time to preserving Britain's WW2 codebreaking centre at Bletchley Park, and to developing exhibitions on that site. He tackled, and completed, the daunting task of building a working replica of the world's first computer - Colossus - used by the codebreakers in their attack on high-level German crypto systems.
The replica was switched on by the Duke of Kent in 1996, and has since been admired by thousands of visitors to Bletchley. Tony is very often in attendance to give a first-hand account of the reconstruction and operation of Colossus.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A general overview only 18 Sep 2002
By A Customer
The author describes this book as "a slightly expanded text of the short talk that I have presented since 1996 at open week ends in Bletchley Park in the Colossus viewing room". That is a fair description. It's addressed to a general readership, who might find a few of the phrases used a bit bewildering, e.g. "the gate delay time is 1.2 microseconds". There is no attempt to explain such phrases, or to go into great detail about any aspect of Colossus. You won't find a detailed description of Colossus, how it worked, or how it was used to break the Lorenz cipher. Worth reading if you know nothing about Colossus, otherwise it probably won't add to your knowledge.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why so down on it.... 11 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a little baffled why other reviews are so down on this booklet, it is exactly what's described in the product description the booklet to accompany the talk given by the late Mr Sale when he would speak about his work on Colossus.

It gives a brief coverage of what Colossus does, i.e. help break the Lorenz code with the logic worked out. The text also explains how a Lorenz was later captured and it gives an insight of the technique brief enough for every listener to grasp the concept and with hints to allow any avid reader to follow up and read other texts.

Its a fine little booklet. Including a few nice black & white images of the machines involved.

If you are looking for in depth information about Colossus, their usage, or how the rebuild was carried out THIS IS NOT THE RIGHT PLACE TO LOOK! However, if you had to cover the early creation of British Computing, or dispute with the US readership about "who created the computer" then this booklet would arm you with just enough information to get by.

I have checked the references made, the text is self contained and correct in its content. It is a sweet, nice legacy for Mr Sale to leave about his work, self-deprecating to the last.

So why have I left off one star? Why not the full five of Five?... Well, Mr Sale wrote this booklet and updated it several times in his life, this impression leaves off in 1996, it could have perhaps done with an updated chapter covering the installation of the Colossus and the new aspects of the information released about the breaking of Fish with Tunny as of 2009. E.g. pointed the reader to the BBC documentary on the topic perhaps? However, it did not do this and so loses that one star as it is dated. But wholly worth the price for a copy.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolute waste of paper 4 Mar 2002
By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Despite Tony Sales reputation as the builder and archivist for the new Colossus machines,the very thin booklet gives no new information or background to that in any published works.
Forget it. Read "Secret War" or the "Ultra Secret" or "Station X" or...
Visit the museum at Bletchley Park, and don't ever forget the debt we owe them all.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars informative and enlightening 20 July 2007
By rinalan
I think that the reviewers below reviewed this book for what they thought it should be than rather for what it is.
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