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Mar Hicks @histoftech
, 9 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
Yesterday I spoke with Lorna Cockayne, one of the last surviving people who ran the first computers in the world--the Colossus computers at Bletchley Park.
Lorna is in her 90s but still vividly recalls the (often tedious) work. Her job as a Colossus operator was to crack the encryption, which changed every day, for Lorenz--the code used for German high command to receive their marching orders. It was far harder to crack than Enigma.
Lorna's machine was Colossus II, which was brought into operation just before D-Day. The information unlocked by Lorna & the other women working in round-the-clock shifts on this machine was make-or-break for the success of the D-Day landings (as I talk about in @proginequality)
One of the things that struck me as I spoke with Lorna was how she remembered the tenor of the war. She wasn't scared, and it didn't feel exciting. The hours were long, the food was poor, & the work of brute force code breaking was dull most of the time--eureka moments were few.
She remembered the war for what it was. A time full of brutality. She did not glamorize it.
At the end of our conversation, she said quietly, "they kept saying it was the war to end all wars, but it wasn't. We're still fighting. We're still in wars all over. It's terrible."

Over 50 million people died in WWII and the Holocaust. It still weighs heavily on her.
She told me she gets fan mail from all over the world, & was surprised to see her name all over the internet. She downplays what she did in the war, in part because she had to keep it secret for so long; she never thought she'd tell anyone. Fortunately, she can now talk about it.
*I should also note that Lorna says she gets too much fan mail, it's a bit hard for her to keep up with responses, so just FYI--let her enjoy her retirement ;)
If you're interested in this story, and more like it, be sure to check out @TechPastPod, launching this fall.

#history #technology #techpastpod
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