Tag: Electronic_Computer > Made up in Britain: Electronic Computer : Tommy Flowers 1943
Electronic Computer
Thomas 'Tommy' Flowers
Thomas 'Tommy' Flowers
Born22 December 1905
Died28 October 1998 | Age 92

Tommy Flowers 1943

Flowers created Colossus, the world's first programmable electronic digital computer in 1943.

Thomas (Tommy) Harold Flowers, MBE (22 December 1905 – 28 October 1998) was a British engineer. During World War II Max Newman, Alan Turing, and other great minds at Bletchley Park codebreaking establishment, were already busy decoding messages produced the Enigma device. Help was needed to solve the far more complicated encrypted German coded messages made by Lorenz cipher devices.

Bletchley called the devices TUNNY, a machine with 1.6 million billion combinations! Bill Tutte was given the task of cracking the complex code. Tutte worked for several months until he cracked the code without even seeing a Lorenz! But the algorithm he had devised meant manual decoding would take months, they had to find a way to speed up the process. Flowers designed Colossus, the first true functioning electronic computer.

Lorenz sz40
Lorenz sz40

Humble Background
Flowers was born in London, England the son of a bricklayer. He started his apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer but took evening classes to achieve a degree in electrical engineering.

He joined the telecommunications branch of General Post Office (GPO) in 1926 and felt that the mechanical system used for the telephone exchange could be converted to an all-electronic system.

Great minds
This gave him good experience and working the mathematician Maxwell Newman they proposed an electronic computer system using 1500 Thermionic valves. Colossus could work at 5000 characters per second with an interval between sprocket holes of 200 microseconds. In this time Colossus performed up to 100 Boolean calculations simultaneously on each of the five tape channels.

Colossus then
Colossus then
Colossus now
Colossus now

Even Earlier



The Colossus was not used to decipher the Enigma. That was done with a machine called Bombe that was developed for Alan Turing by Harold 'Doc' Keen at the British Tabulating Machine Company (BTM) based on the work by the Polish version called the Bomba.
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