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UK's Colossus Revealed to Be World-Class Game System and WWII Codebreaker

To mark the 80th anniversary of Colossus, the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) released several previously unseen photos of the machine that helped the Allies defeat the Axis Powers during World War II. Colossus was the first programmable computer developed in secret from 1943 to 1945 to aid British codebreakers. It was designed by Tommy Flowers, a telephone engineer, to solve specific problems to help with deciphering the Lorenz cipher used by the German High Command and the Army. Another secret about Colossus just revealed was that it was used to play an early war strategy role-playing game called “Kill Hitler”, which used hand-drawn cards and a game program fed into one of the Colossus systems. The Colossus hardware staff and some of the codebreakers would gather late in the evening to play the game under the guise of “testing the system”. Most of these games lasted into the early hours of the morning when the project managers were asleep in their beds. Flowers refined the game and planned to create smaller, home versions of the Colossus system specifically to play it after the war, assuming Britain won. At the conclusion of the war, the Colossus systems were disassembled and destroyed. Mr. Flowers was ordered to turn over all the documentation, including the code for the game and the cards, and was sworn to secrecy. The Official Secrets Act is unforgiving to inventiveness and basic entrepreneurship. Sadly, the world had to wait until the 1970s before home game consoles became widely available.