During World War II, the Nazis used complex codes to obfuscate commands, and cracking those codes was one of the keys to the Allies’ success. This codebreaking was accomplished in part by Colossus, the world’s first digital, programmable computer. The National Museum of Computing (NMOC) in Bletchley Park, England, says that Colossus “shortened the war by two years and…saved countless thousands of lives.” Now it’s time for us to help Colossus, or rather, the NMOC.
Although the NMOC rebuilt Colossus in 2007, the museum itself needs more cash to grow its new gallery, for all of us Nazi-hating computerphiles who want a glimpse of history. This is where you come in:
Both community and commerce are encouraged to play their part in helping tell the story of one of the great achievements of the twentieth century. Individuals and small companies can also make modest and publicly acknowledged donations by sponsoring virtual Colossus valves….
That’s right, sponsoring a valve, a.k.a. vacuum tube. As tech historians know, Colossus ran on valves and gas tubes, called thyratrons. (This was back in the day when computer bugs were actual insects.) And for a minimum of £10, you can sponsor your own virtual one at www.colossusonline.org. Your or your company’s name, along with your URL, will be viewed on the Colossus website.
Best of all, asking the public to sponsor a valve is far more interesting than a polite request for donations. It’s the NMOC’s way of saying, “Help us restore the machine that let us KICK NAZI ASS.”
Of course, that would sound much better than “sponsor a valve.”
Colossus predated Eniac (previously thought to be the world’s first computer) by two years, but its existence was classified by the UK’s Ministry of Defence. There’s currently a push to recreate Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine as well.
For more on the Colossus computer, click here.