Smoke rosefrom Newman’s prototype machine the first time it was switched on (alarge resistor overloaded). Around a vast frame made of angle-ironwound two long loops of teleprinter tape (see photo). Resembling an old-fashionedbed standing on end, the frame quickly became known as the‘bedstead’. The tapes were supported by a system ofpulleys and wooden wheels of diameter about ten inches. Each tape wasdriven by a toothed sprocket-wheel which engaged a continuous row ofsprocket-holes along the centre of the tape (see ). The tapeswere driven by the same drive-shaft and moved in synchronisation witheach other at a maximum speed of 2000 characters per second. To theamusement and annoyance of Heath Robinson’s operators, tapeswould sometimes tear or come unglued, flying off the bedstead at highspeed and breaking into fragments which festooned the Newmanry.

The novel, a fictionalized account of WWII British codebreakers

Five Innovations from World War II — Big Design Events
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Five Innovations from World War II

In 1943 a device to eliminate one step – a ramshackle mechanical affair jokingly called Heath Robinson by its operators – was developed. Then, early in 1944, there was a giant leap. A GPO engineer called Tommy Flowers finished building Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer. It was delivered to Bletchley Park, having been built at Dollis Hill, the GPO development workshop, on January 18 and it worked on its first message on February 5. Flowers, not a man to be overwhelmed by the importance of events, noted in his diary: “Colossus did its first job. Car broke down on way home.”

these machines were great-grandparents to ..

Bill Tutte became a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, then went to Canada to become professor of mathematics at Waterloo. He never received any official recognition of his war work. Tommy Flowers was awarded £1,000 (less than he had personally spent on Colossus’s development) and given an MBE. He stayed at the GPO, working on electronic telephone exchanges and Ernie, the Premium Bonds computer. He was unable to use the success of Colossus to give weight to his advanced ideas and was left to watch America’s electronics industry move ahead of Britain’s.

The tercentenary celebration of Pascal's invention of the mechanical calculator occurred during WWII when ..
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Unputdownable: 17 books I read in 24 ..

The Newmanry’s Colossi might have passed into the public domain atthe end of the fighting, to become, like ENIAC, the electronic muscleof a scientific research facility. The Newmanry’s engineers wouldquickly have adapted the equipment for peacetime applications. Thestory of computing might have unfolded rather differently with such amomentous push right at the beginning. Churchill’s order to destroythe Colossi was an almighty blow in the face for science—andfor British industry.

Colossus computer of Max Newman and Tommy Flowers

There was a fictional computer named in the 1970 movie . This was sheer coincidence as it pre-dates the public release of information about Colossus, or even its name.

10 everyday inventions you owe to World War 2 - …

In 1934 Flowers wired together an experimental installationcontaining three to four thousand valves (by contrast, Wynn-Williams’electronic counters of 1931 contained only three or four valves).This equipment was for controlling connections between telephoneexchanges by means of tones, like today’s touch-tones (athousand telephone lines were controlled, each line having 3-4 valvesattached to its end). Flowers’ design was accepted by the PostOffice and the equipment went into limited operation in 1939. Flowershad proved that an installation containing thousands of valves wouldoperate very reliably—but this equipment was a far cry fromColossus. The handful of valves attached to each telephone lineformed a simple unit, operating independently of the other valves inthe installation, whereas in Colossus large numbers of valves workedin concert.

The Effect of the First Computers on History - Ellsbury

During their later years the two Colossi were used extensively fortraining. Details of what they were used for prior to this remainclassified. There is a hint of the importance of one new role forthese Newmanry survivors in a letter written by Jack Good: