Despite what the history books say, the ENIAC was not the first digital computer in the world; the COLOSSUS was, but since it was developed secretly during World War II, the British (those that knew about it) have had to suck it up whenever we Yanks touted our (false) superiority. Until the 1970s, when details of the machine’s existence were made public. Of course, none of the textbooks used to teach American students has been changed to reflect reality, at least when I was going to school.
Unfortunately, all the hard-copy schematics of the machine were destroyed in 1960, except for a few drawings, kept illegally by engineers, which were divulged during the rebuild project in the 1990s. The rebuild was started based on eight! photographs of the machine and a handful of grey-matter recollections. In 1995, the NSA in the US was forced by a Freedom of Information Act request to declassify 5,000 documents pertaining to the Colossus. Several of these documents were helpful in rebuilding the machine; one in particular, written by Albert Small, thoroughly described how Colossus worked and enabled a significant amount of progress in replicating many of the mechanisms of the machine. Colossus is estimated to be about 90% rebuilt now and there’s work begun to rebuild the Colossus Mk II and the Tunny machine.
If you’ve read Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon and enjoyed it, you have to read about this. I’m personally fascinated with the early days of cryptanalysis and how it helped to birth the digital computer age. It’s absolutely amazing what was engineered and built before the advent of the transistor (which is to say, before I was born). I’m sure some will be loathe to read it, but this is one example of something non-violent that Hitler caused to happen, by his clever use of large-scale machine-based encryption, which undoubtedly precipitated the computerized world we now live in â€” or maybe that’s just my naÃ¯vetÃ© showing.
World War II Codes and Ciphers info: