The story of Lorenz and Colossus is relatively unknown compared to Enigma and the Bombe, and it is for this reason that I commend The Times’ feature on Colossus (Technology Review, 23rd September 2013). However, I cannot help but be disappointed by the failure to afford recognition to Bill Tutte. It was Tutte who deduced the logical structure of the Lorenz cipher, which enabled Tommy Flowers to design Colossus.
In the feature it states: “Without having seen a Lorenz machine, the Brits worked out how it operated…” Tutte’s achievement has been described as one of the greatest intellectual feats of World War Two, so to refer to Tutte’s accomplishment as “the Brits worked out how it operated” is incredibly inadequate.
This reinforces the perpetual problem of Tutte’s breaking of Lorenz receiving far less recognition than the breaking of Enigma. It’s a real shame that the article doesn’t go that little bit further and give Tutte the credit he deserves.
The article is worth a read (despite minor inaccuracies) and is available on-line, where you can also do a little code-breaking. Be sure to turn up your volume to make full benefit of the impressive sound effects http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/colossus/
Why not visit The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park where you can see a rebuild of Colossus Mark II and learn more about the work of Tutte?
Author: Claire Butterfield