Alan Turing is credited with inventing computer science, cracking Enigma and shortening the Second World War by two years. And while all this is true, there’s a person in his story who’s generally overlooked. Effectively written out of history, he’s not even mentioned in The Imitation Game, the movie of Turing’s time at Bletchley Park, and that is Tommy Flowers.
Tommy who? Exactly!
Flowers had been working on a machine for the Post Office which could increase the efficiency of telephone exchanges, turning them from mechanical or hand operated to electronic relays. He started off his wartime engineering adventures making a Bombe machine decoder (a basic mechanical computer akin to Babbage’s Difference Engine) for Turing which was intended to process thousands of bits of data every minute, but when Turing abandoned that idea he asked Flowers to build a machine which could crack the Enigma code. Flowers looked at the brief and thought “Actually, I can make it better than this!” and he did. He created Colossus instead, a machine as big as the average bedroom which could process vast amounts of data even faster. With his engineering genius and Turing’s mathematics the German encoders working with an encryption machine which could only do millions of permutations had their work cut out trying to keep secrets from Hut 8. Read more