Geniuses at war Bletchley Park, Colossus, and the dawn of the digital age

David A. 1961- Price

Book - 2021

"Geniuses at War is the dramatic, untold story of the brilliant team who built the world's first digital electronic computer at Bletchley Park, during a critical time in World War II. Decoding the communication of the Nazi high command was imperative for the success of the Allied invasion of Normandy. The Nazi missives were encrypted by the "Tunny" cipher, a code that was orders of magnitude more difficult to crack than the infamous Enigma code. But Tommy Flowers, a maverick ...English working-class engineer, devised the ingenious, daring, and controversial plan to build a machine that could think at breathtaking speed and break the code in nearly real time. Together with the pioneering mathematician Max Newman and Enigma code-breaker Alan Turing, Flowers and his team produced--against the odds, the clock, and a resistant leadership--Colossus, the world's first digital electronic computer, the machine that would help bring the war to an end. With fascinating detail and illuminating insight, David A. Price's Geniuses at War tells, for the first time, the mesmerizing story of the great minds behind Colossus, and chronicles their remarkable feats of engineering genius which ushered in the dawn of the digital age"--

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Subjects
Published
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2021.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Item Description
"A Borzoi book."--Title page verso.
Physical Description
243 pages ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780525521549
0525521542
Main Author
David A. 1961- Price (author)
  • Prologue
  • The right type of recruit
  • The palace coup
  • Breaking Tunny
  • The soul of a new machine
  • Decrypting for D-Day
  • After the war
  • Epilogue: Turing's child machine, 1968.
Review by Library Journal Reviews

During World War II, with the success of the Allied invasion of Normandy depending on decoding German communications encrypted by the challenging Tunny cipher, working-class English engineer Tommy Flowers coordinated with Alan Turing and mathematician Max Newman to create Colossus, the world's first digital electronic computer. Cracking Enigma is the better-known story, but computer science-trained Price (The Pixar Touch) finally lets Colossus shine. Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Price (The Pixar Touch) puts his expertise in history and technology to excellent use in his latest book. Following the exploits of the motley collection of geniuses installed at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, he weaves a superb narrative, at once compelling and relatable, about the technological innovations used to break the Nazis' many military and police codes and ciphers. In this book, the code breakers come to life as people grappling with personal conflicts and politics while working together (and sometimes against each other) in the relatively egalitarian environment at Bletchley. Many of the group's innovations receive notice in Price's work, but he focuses mainly on the events and people involved in the invention of Colossus—the first programmable, electronic, digital computer, which was designed to break the German army's Lorenz cipher. Readers will encounter familiar names, such as Winston Churchill, along with less prominent figures, like the British mathematician Max Newman. VERDICT Incredibly well-written and well-researched, this fast-paced book reads like a novel. Highly recommended to readers with an interest in World War II and 20th-century history, as well as anyone looking for an exciting story of code breaking and intrigue.—Crystal Goldman, Univ. of California, San Diego Lib. Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Journalist Price (The Pixar Touch) delivers a solid history of how Allied codebreakers at Bletchley Park developed "the first operational digital computers" to defeat Germany's vaunted Lorenz SZ cipher machines. Crediting Bletchley Park's successes to a "strain of meritocracy existed, even if only on the margins, within a powerful system of social class," Price notes that the British signals intelligence agency initially thought the "right type of recruit" for cryptography were academics who had experience with art history, law, German, and the classics. However, it was mathematician Alan Turing who cracked the Enigma codes, and mathematician Max Newman and telephone engineer Tommy Flowers (a self-taught specialist in "large-scale digital electronics") who designed and built Colossus, a programmable computer that allowed British codebreakers "to read the Third Reich's highest-level military communications system, including messages from Hitler himself." Price briskly relates the technical aspects of the story and includes plenty of gossip and droll anecdotes, noting, for instance, that the Germans refused to believe the British had broken the Enigma codes because they were so bad at encrypting their own messages. Much of this will be familiar to WWII history buffs, but those looking for an entertaining introduction to Bletchley Park and the era's technological innovations would do well to start here. (June) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Journalist Price (The Pixar Touch) delivers a solid history of how Allied codebreakers at Bletchley Park developed "the first operational digital computers" to defeat Germany's vaunted Lorenz SZ cipher machines. Crediting Bletchley Park's successes to a "strain of meritocracy existed, even if only on the margins, within a powerful system of social class," Price notes that the British signals intelligence agency initially thought the "right type of recruit" for cryptography were academics who had experience with art history, law, German, and the classics. However, it was mathematician Alan Turing who cracked the Enigma codes, and mathematician Max Newman and telephone engineer Tommy Flowers (a self-taught specialist in "large-scale digital electronics") who designed and built Colossus, a programmable computer that allowed British codebreakers "to read the Third Reich's highest-level military communications system, including messages from Hitler himself." Price briskly relates the technical aspects of the story and includes plenty of gossip and droll anecdotes, noting, for instance, that the Germans refused to believe the British had broken the Enigma codes because they were so bad at encrypting their own messages. Much of this will be familiar to WWII history buffs, but those looking for an entertaining introduction to Bletchley Park and the era's technological innovations would do well to start here. (June) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Geniuses at War is the dramatic, untold story of the brilliant team who built the world's first digital electronic computer at Bletchley Park, during a critical time in World War II. Decoding the communication of the Nazi high command was imperative forthe success of the Allied invasion of Normandy. The Nazi missives were encrypted by the "Tunny" cipher, a code that was orders of magnitude more difficult to crack than the infamous Enigma code. But Tommy Flowers, a maverick English working-class engineer, devised the ingenious, daring, and controversial plan to build a machine that could think at breathtaking speed and break the code in nearly real time. Together with the pioneering mathematician Max Newman and Enigma code-breaker Alan Turing, Flowers and his team produced--against the odds, the clock, and a resistant leadership--Colossus, the world's first digital electronic computer, the machine that would help bring the war to an end. With fascinating detail and illuminating insight, David A. Price'sGeniuses at War tells, for the first time, the mesmerizing story of the great minds behind Colossus, and chronicles their remarkable feats of engineering genius which ushered in the dawn of the digital age"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Tells the story of how an English engineer’s team decoded the Nazi high command’s infamous Enigma code during a pivotal moment in World War II by building the world’s first digital electronic computer. Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The dramatic, untold story of the brilliant team whose feats of innovation and engineering created the world’s first digital electronic computer—decrypting the Nazis’ toughest code, helping bring an end to WWII, and ushering in the information age.Planning the invasion of Normandy, the Allies knew that decoding the communications of the Nazi high command was imperative for its success. But standing in their way was an encryption machine they called Tunny (British English for “tuna”), which was vastly more difficult to crack than the infamous Enigma cipher. To surmount this seemingly impossible challenge, Alan Turing, the Enigma codebreaker, brought in a maverick English working-class engineer named Tommy Flowers who devised the ingenious, daring, and controversial plan to build a machine that would calculate at breathtaking speed and break the code in nearly real time. Together with the pioneering mathematician Max Newman, Flowers and his team produced—against the odds, the clock, and a resistant leadership—Colossus, the world’s first digital electronic computer, the machine that would help bring the war to an end. Drawing upon recently declassified sources, David A. Price’s Geniuses at War tells, for the first time, the full mesmerizing story of the great minds behind Colossus and chronicles the remarkable feats of engineering genius that marked the dawn of the digital age.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

The dramatic, untold story of the brilliant team whose feats of innovation and engineering created the world’s first digital electronic computer—decrypting the Nazis’ toughest code, helping bring an end to WWII, and ushering in the information age.Planning the invasion of Normandy, the Allies knew that decoding the communications of the Nazi high command was imperative for its success. But standing in their way was an encryption machine they called Tunny (British English for “tuna”), which was vastly more difficult to crack than the infamous Enigma cipher. To surmount this seemingly impossible challenge, Alan Turing, the Enigma codebreaker, brought in a maverick English working-class engineer named Tommy Flowers who devised the ingenious, daring, and controversial plan to build a machine that would calculate at breathtaking speed and break the code in nearly real time. Together with the pioneering mathematician Max Newman, Flowers and his team produced—against the odds, the clock, and a resistant leadership—Colossus, the world’s first digital electronic computer, the machine that would help bring the war to an end. Drawing upon recently declassified sources, David A. Price’s Geniuses at War tells, for the first time, the full mesmerizing story of the great minds behind Colossus and chronicles the remarkable feats of engineering genius that marked the dawn of the digital age.