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Enigma

Colossus

ENIAC

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Computer programmer Grace Hopper, c. 1944
Credit: Harvard University

Computing and the Second World War

The Second World War spurred dramatic advances in electronics, including its extension from analog to digital processing. Computing power of many kinds played a key role during the war for ballistic calculations, fire control, flight simulation and code breaking. Both sides scrambled to use effective new technology. The Germans, for example, developed the electromechanical “Enigma” to convert messages into coded form for secret transmission by radio or telephone. In an effort to decipher the codes, the British Government built a series of secret machines including the “Colossus” at Bletchley Park. The artifacts shown here represent advanced calculating technology from both sides of the conflict in World War II.

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