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on 17 June 2010
I am a volunteer at Bletchley Park and as such give talks and tours on Colossus, Heath Robinson, Tunny etc. This book is simply the best that I have ever read on the subject. It has allowed me to fill in all sorts of blanks and uncertainties.
It has so many reports from peoplem who actually worked at Bletchley Park, that is is undoubtedly a "bible" for those who need it. There are many worked examples on decrypting Tunny, describing the chi, psi and motor wheels.
By the way, if you visit Bletchley Park, also take a look at the National Museum of Computing too.
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on 31 May 2006
This book contains numerous articles written by some of those invisible people who actually took part in this top secret project. Some of the accounts are those of frustration, from people not allowed to get the recognition that they and their colleagues deserve. The level of detail and understanding shown makes this a very interesting and unique picture. I would recommend it without hesitation. Their ability to inject humour in the most serious of stories gives you some idea of the luck and good fortune that resulted in the most important achievements.
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on 13 December 2010
After a visit to Bletchley Park I was keen to delve further into the dark world of cryptography. As the title suggests this book concentrates on one of the final pieces of kit which speeded up no end the breaking and reading of German codes. I was with it all for the first two or three chapters but after that it was a struggle - a knowledge of advanced maths is a positive advantage! The following chapters were mainly reminiscencies of senior staff including their particular theoretical or practical problems. There are appendices at the back with detailed tables etc. which provide or enlarge on the technical details mentioned within the body of the book.
This I think is a tome for the more advanced student of this fascinating subject.
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on 20 May 2012
As someone with an interest in the mechanics of codes and ciphers, and also an interest in Bletchley, Enigma, Alan Turing, and chandestine/covert WWII subjects like the XX Committee, MI9, SOE and so on, this book didn't need to be sold to me.

It is easy to assume that Bletchley = Turing = Enigma, but what this book does spectacularly is to reveal, nay, stress, that there were many others (Max Newman and Tom Flowers are two, I haven't got room to name all the participants deserving of being named) without whom Bletchley would either not have existed or not been (as) successful.
There is a huge amount of mathematics in this book, and my (very old) A-level Mathematics came in very handy. However, those that are not mathematically inclined can skip over the detailed maths and continue reading the story and won't miss very much. The obscure material is substantial and detailed but it doesn't interfere with the narrative.

Apart from dispelling a few misapprehensions about the importance of Enigma encipherment and machines relative to Tunny and the Lorenz machines, the most fascinating part was the first person stories of the Bletchley people - or their surviving relatives, and that is this book's great strength or "USP" (unique selling point) in today's jargon.
Good to know how and why a 1940s Colossus was quicker at processing some jobs than my 2010 dual-core PC !

The sense of loss that these genius people and the many hundreds of men and women who executed their plans never received any recognition for their war work is palpable and the book treats that stain on Britain's record in a matter of fact way.
There is, after all, some Bletchley material that has not been declassified. Not yet!
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on 9 September 2009
This detailed account of the life and people who worked at Bletchley Park is a compelling read, whether or not you are interested in the hardware and technical explanations, of which there is an abundance, but for the personal accounts from those who were involved.

What comes across in these is the extraordinary loyalty and determination of individuals and teams, in spite of the poor living accommodation, welfare and working conditions afforded them in return for their genius and ingenuity.

However, these people fought with their brains. Driven by a collective resolve, winning was cracking a new cipher, which could save hundreds of lives by unveiling a single sentence.

The late Tommy Flowers' section on his work at the Post Office's Dollis Hill research centre using thermionic valves is a fascinating insight as to how it became possible to process data at speeds in powers of ten over mechanical systems, an overture to today's nano-transistor, gigahertz-clocked multi-core power processors.

Combined with the sheer intellectual capacity of the mathematicians working on the project to provide the basis of the programming, this was the key technology that made breaking deeply encrypted messages possible in useable timescales.

It also raises a poignant thought: the `Colossi' - there were quite few of them - seemed to become like trusted old friends, and their destruction after the end of hostilities was viewed by most working with them as a sad affair. Perhaps with 20-20 vision in hindsight, an over-zealous application of the Official Secrets Act, which held back the UK computer industry for decades?

Of interest to historians and the plain curious, this is a quality collection of information on the essence of what made Bletchley Park...and modern computing.
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on 1 September 2007
A very interesting book written by those who were involved. Much easier to read than Paul Gannon's book as it is personal rather than historical from documents. A very interesting book and I can thoroughly recommend it.
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on 6 June 2015
A good read but in many places it assumes the reader is familiar with cryptography. It is really the background to Colossus and the general code breaking activities at Bletchley Park but it is fascinating to read the individuals' views on the same topics.
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on 26 May 2015
BUY THE PRINT VERSION. All of the photographs are missing from the kindle edition!!!!! It is extremely annoying as the text of the book constantly refers to photographs and gives references to the photograph number. They are also listed in the index but are nowhere to be found.
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on 10 August 2014
This is a fascination book with much detail on the workings of Colossus and (auto-)biographies of those who built and operated it.
If it falls down anywhere it is that it was written by several authors who contributed their own versions of what they saw and did. Consequently there is a fair amount of repetition and an unevenness for style and technical content. Most of the declassified information is there, but you need quite a deep understanding of statistics and the associated mathematics to get the most out of some chapters. Although it would have lost much of the personal touch and in some cases immediacy, these areas could have done with a total consolidating re-write by a competent technical author to bring it all together. Maybe adding the personal reminiscences about life and times at BP as a second section.
The almost complete post-was neglect of the chief participants and their muzzling by the Official Secrets Act is a national disgrace.
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on 26 April 2006
Couldn't put it down. You are lectured by some of the worlds greatest scientists, who undoubtably save the western world from the Nazis; it is written with humour and in excellent style. What fortune that the release of this classified information was just in time (but only just) to allow contributions from those who really 'won the war'. The repetition of how Colossus worked by its many contributors allows non-techies to really understand what it did, and how the first computer was British not American! Da Vinci code - eat your heart out!
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