Code-breakers BBC2 Now

#1
Sorry for late notice- started 9pm- about breaking Lorenz. Excellent but my brain hurts- these people were way beyond phenomenal, thank god for them.
 
#2
On again Saturday at 20:40, BBC2.

Interesting what they’re broadcasting to the general public, but quite right too. Hard to find sufficient praise for these and other hidden kings of WWII. Shame we achieved so much, just to give it all away.

No.9
 
#3
Always interesting. Added bonus in this prog as some of the backing music was from Eels, my fave band.
 
#4
Good to see so much Int Corps visibility. Will anything that we do matter so much?
 
#5
Always interesting. Added bonus in this prog as some of the backing music was from Eels, my fave band.
It was mind blowing stuff, and I also noticed the Director must have been a Radiohead fan too.
 
#8
Hard to comprehend the feats of lateral thinking that were necessary to manually crack those codes, and also to conceive of and build the Colossus...

.....and how tragic that UK then threw away its lead in computer science in the immediate post-war era. Imagine a British IBM kicking off in the late 1940s.
 
#9
Excellent programme, and pleased to see the tribute to Tony Sale at the end of the programme. Its about time Tommy Flowers and Bill Tutte's story was told. The breaking of Tunny was every bit as important as the breaking of the Enigma codes, and considerably harder!
 
#10
Hard to comprehend the feats of lateral thinking that were necessary to manually crack those codes, and also to conceive of and build the Colossus...

.....and how tragic that UK then threw away its lead in computer science in the immediate post-war era. Imagine a British IBM kicking off in the late 1940s.
I don't think we threw that lead away, we just kept collossus very quiet for National Security reasons. Bletchley Park was described as the Goose that laid the Golden Egg, and kept it very very quiet.
 
#11
I don't think we threw that lead away, we just kept collossus very quiet for National Security reasons. Bletchley Park was described as the Goose that laid the Golden Egg, and kept it very very quiet.
The British way of understating, whereas, the yanks just have to holler it and overstate it.
 
#12
And why was this piece of history buried in such a late slot?

I do think the failure to honour Bill Tutt and Tommy Flowers in their lifetimes was, and still is, a national scandal. I don't buy the "oh it had to be kept secret" line at all, plenty of folks who did far less on the secret side were honoured and were allowed to quietly benefit. Considering these two were living until very recently, it is a crying shame that they were not brought into the spotlight when the publicity exploded over Enigma...

Yet another example of the British disease of keeping technical folk in their place IMHO..

GC&CS, (not MI6 as stated in the film..) like most of the "dark side" was run by some really strange folk, and probably still is.. One can only speculate as to how Turing was able to continue to work and benefit in the post war period despite some really bizarre behaviour. Interesting to note that he and Tutt never seemed to get on?

Such speculation aside - I have always said that the Tiltman-Tutt break of the "fish" traffic was the outstanding achievement of the war. Nice to see it publicised at last, and I hope the piece is repeated at a more convenient time..
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#13
This was presented as if Lorenz has only just come to public notice, but Simon Singh discussed this (and Tutte and Flowers) in "The Code Book*" in 1999. However he does say Collossus was broken up, which is the received wisdom, although the programme said it went to GC&CS and continued in use. That this should be secret if we were using it to break Soviet cyphers makes sense!

The keeping of their secrets by the personnel involved is highly commendable. We only discovered a few weeks ago that an elderly neighbour had been a Wren at Bletchley Park. Jim Booth, a COPP veteran who was interviewed recently, said his sister was at Bletchley during the war but neither could or would tell the other what they were doing.

*Recommended reading if you want to know about public/private key cryptography & so forth.
 
#14
Never bought the idea that colllossus was broken up. No ryme or reason to do so. Glad it continued to do good works.
 
#15
]Hard to comprehend the feats of lateral thinking that were necessary to manually crack those codes, and also to conceive of and build the Colossus...

[/B].....and how tragic that UK then threw away its lead in computer science in the immediate post-war era. Imagine a British IBM kicking off in the late 1940s.
Watched the broadcast after having seen the heads up by Arte et Marte ... thanks by the way .

My Bold .... I think where we really had the edge on decryption was the broad academic backgrounds of the people at Blechley Park .... as already said some of whom behaved in a bizarre manner . One of the things that came out was that German decryption was disjointed being carried out IIRC by seven organisations with infighting and as the programme mentioned last night erupting to physical violence on at least one occasion .

Excellent programme .
 
#16
.....and how tragic that UK then threw away its lead in computer science in the immediate post-war era. Imagine a British IBM kicking off in the late 1940s.
There was a company that could have been one. The British Tabulating Machine Company (BTM) which built the Turing Bombes at Letchworth, was around then. Having spun off from IBM in 1949, they simply chose not to invest in computers until IBM had an unassailable lead. IBM on the other hand, which was not a computer company but decided, in the 1950s, to put the investment in to becoming one.

BTM became ICT, which became ICL and is currently called Fujitsu UK.

All of the above is from my lecture called "100 Years of IBM", which I wrote for IBM's Centennial - 2011.
 
#17
There was a company that could have been one.
J. Lyons & Co (they were a chain of tea shops). No, I'm not kidding - they built their own computer by 1951 to handle back-office stuff, and by 1953 were doing the weekly payroll run on it.

J. Lyons & Co.
LEO (computer) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Meanwhile, Ferranti were also getting stuck into this kind of stuff in Manchester; the world's first commercially-available computer was the Ferranti Mk.1

IBM's great advantage was, of course, the US Defence budget. They were getting millions thrown at them so that they could build computers (Whirlwind and SAGE) for the US military. No Such Agency would also have been splashing the money around...

At the end of the day, the US companies took the lead because the US Govt. spent so much more money buying computers - economies of scale count for a lot.
 
#18
Interesting to follow the demise of ICL though..

Whitehall could just not get this right.. In the 70's the decision was made to allow the Pay Corps to go IBM at Worthy Down and the Ordnance Corps to go ICL at Bicester. Which is OK up to a point, however somewhat loses it when you discover that each site was supposed to be a backup for each other.. (which it could never do..)

Both IBM & ICL became extremely badly run, with clear evidence of of some very dodgy behaviour and probably criminal scams with government contracts. Before the war, TJ Watson, the MD of IBM was little more than a crook, up to all sorts of dodgy dealing! By the mid 80's the value for money presented by both of these companies was highly questionable, allowing open systems and UNIX to steal a march..

What is funny is that IBM was the author of it's own downfall by developing the IBM PC, but then making it an open hardware architecture and using externally sourced software, thereby losing control. Apparantly this was because all the "suits" in IBM thought the PC was just a toy and never took it seriously!
 
#19
I think that you are helping to make my point with LEO. LEO was way ahead of anything that any US company had to offer at the time. All those early computer companies (including LEO) were eventually rolled into ICL where they received significant UK Government support and cash. In my opinion, the cash for the UK Government just made ICL fat and lazy whereas the US Government cash was spent on R&D rather than Dividends. (See below.)

I don't recall IBM building Whirlwind (MIT) but some of its technology (Core Storage) was licensed and developed by IBM for AN/FSQ-7 (SAGE). That cheap memory was one of the keys to IBM's success with later commercial computers. Similarly, the Space Program funded a lot of IBM technology later used commercially.
 
#20
1. In the 70's the decision was made to allow the Pay Corps to go IBM at Worthy Down

2. TJ Watson, the MD of IBM was little more than a crook, up to all sorts of dodgy dealing!

3. What is funny is that IBM was the author of it's own downfall by developing the IBM PC,
1. Nope the Royal Army Pay Corps bought its first IBM Computer in the 1950s - an IBM 705. (Ref: AGC Museum Winchester.)

2. I think that you need to say: which TJ Watson? which war? and what "all sorts of dodgy dealing"?

3. Downfall means that it is now only the second largest IT company by market capitalisation and still first in turnover. Having said that, IBM isn't really a "computer company" any more having reinvented itself - again. BBC News - IBM at 100: From typewriters to the cloud

As you may guess I research computer history, with a special interest in the History of IBM.
 

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