Bill Tutte and Tommy Flowers

25 October 2011

There are lots of blog posts to catch up on, and I am sat up in bed with the laptop ready for a good bedtime read, but before I do, just a quick catch up on Bletchley Park.

There was a fabulous documentary on BBC2 this evening about the unsung heros of BP, in particular Bill Tutte, a brilliant mathematician who worked out how the Lorenz encryption messaging machine worked (and co-incidentally ended up in Canada after the war - but that's another story) and Tommy Flowers, a GPO engineer who designed and built the first computer, Colossus (because is was so big), which was used to decode the Lorenz messages.

These two men achieved quite astonishing results but had to keep their wartime achievments quiet, never truly revealing all that they had contributed.  For both this must have been so frustrating, but for Flowers in particular this must have really hurt for while he invented the first computer he had to remain silent when, only a year after the war ended, the Americans announced that they had built the first computer.  One reason for his silence was that 2 of the original Colossus machines were transferred to GCHQ after the war ( which became the secret service listening centre) where it was probable that they were used to decode Soviet messages.  It has been suggested that as they swept through Eastern Europe, the soviet forces would have captured some of the German Lorenz machines, which were used by only the very highest ranks in the German forces, and then used them during the start of the cold war era.

The piece is formulating in my mind.  I have not done much since the weekend, but I have prepared two backgounds.

Here is one of them on the (well protected) kitchen work surface.  In the spirit of thrift and makedo and mend I am not buying any new material for this quilt and this background is tissue paper bonded to calico with a mix of half water, half PVA glue and then, while still wet, dry Procion Dye powder is sprinkled onto the fabric/paper.

I then used damp cling film buffed with the back of a spoon to make the powders spread across the paper.  This is a technique I have used before and keep coming back to, despite other experimentation (and the purchase of that book on backgrounds.)

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