Clive Robinson May 6, 2021 10:56 AM

@ ALL,

It is interesting especially when he talks about the breaking of Tunny and the mistake the designer at Siemens made in the keystream generation.

These days we normally get told about “key reuse” but we tend not to think about it in terms of “pairs” of key stream or plaintext characters.

Something all budding crypto designers should get in their heads.

Jonathan Wilson May 6, 2021 9:19 PM

The original ideas Alan Turing had for the computer he wanted to see built (the ACE) were far ahead of their time. Its a pitty the British government were too near sighted (and too scared of the world finding out that the UK had been reading everyone’s secrets) to take the lead in computers that they could have (and should have) taken.

Clive Robinson May 7, 2021 3:57 AM

@ Jonathan Wilson,

Its a pitty the British government were too near sighted (and too scared of the world finding out that the UK had been reading everyone’s secrets)

It’s,a bit more complex than that, as modern day historians are finding out as Government papers locked up in the National Archives at Kew SW London are starting to find out.

Britain stood alone against Germany, and although it had an Empire it was at the point where the Empire was costing as much as it was giving. Most British assets of any worth were in the US.

Whilst Britain stood alone US Politicians assumed incorrectly that Britain had the,wealth of about one third of the world at it’s disposal, thus decided to put the screws on. Thus Britain not only got asset striped it realised it could not go on fighting without going bankrupt.

Lord Beaverbrook pointed out that if Britain was going to go bankrupt they might as well go “all out bankrupt” or go with a lions roar not a mouses squeak. Thus Britain placed order after order that it could not possibly pay for. Thus when the US politicians finally realised what was happening “they were in too deep” and could not get out very easily.

Thus “Leand Lease” amongst other things came about. What changed things was Japan attacking the US. So wilst the war was in progress the US Politicians were content to let Britain have more and more credit, as debt confers power to the creditor.

However when the war ended the credit was over, the cupboards were bare all assets sold, or indebted beyond any worth, in a world where the economy was compleatly depressed and trade was not really happening. Britain started to starve quite literally.

My parents amongst others only survived on the food parcels sent by individual US Citizens to the people of Britain when they found out about the state of Britain and it’s citizens. Some do not realise just how long food rationing went on for and the truely horrific experiments to make production more efficient… This included feeding Chicked droppings back to chickens to make them grow faster, and turning chicken feathers into addatives for bread and much more. Some of which have come back to haunt us like “Mad Cow” and various swine diseases.

Mean while the US politicians behaved in a way that would be shocking to US citizens today if they were taught about it at school. What caused a change in policy was not the plight of the ordinary people in Europe of which both Britain and Germany were perhaps the worst off from the war. The mass starvation, disease, and freezing to death and high criminal activity were of no interest, it was the easy path it gave the communists that scared the US Politicians into action.

Whilst the ERP (Marshall Plan) in the very late 1940’s to early 50’s started improvments it was not a gift and further debts were built up. But British industry had been destroyed beyond recovery, not by bombs or bullets, but by hard use and little maintainance for over a decade, everything was “clapped out” even though from a distance it appeared Britain had infrastructure via the railways the hard reality on the ground was it did not. Also industry for war, is not industry for peace, to change required significant investment. Again US Politicians assumed Britain was sitting on a crock of gold because of the Empire, that in reality was dead, rotting and breaking up.

Thus British politicians discovered they had no freedom any technelogical advance that might have made Britain a world power again got quashed by the US demanding war debt back.

Britain was inovating but as far as US Politicians were concerned in their cold war with the CCCP the US had to appear “all mighty” thus Britain was not alowed to have technical success it had to be US and US alone success. The result amongst other things was the “Brain Drain” and much else. But also Britain was effectively forced to be the US guard post on Europe but without any benifit. Thus Britain incurred even more deleterious debt having to use US manufacturing to make British designed technology, to be used in Britain by US Personnel for mainly US benifit.

As I’ve mentioned before, the first 16bit CPU chips were designed and manufactured in the UK and you will not have heard of them. The reason they were immediately made classified for millitary only usage by the British Government… The same happened with just about every computing advance made, it had to go not into commercial applications, but only into millitary.

Which was why in the 1970s and 1980s when The UK had arguably started the “Home Computer” revelotion, it was founded on US Chips, UK software and the cheapest of injection molded plastic cases as UK industry still could not provide better…

About the only thing to come out of that revelotion that lasted, was some funny little company called Acorn that found it had to design it’s own chips because it could not get what it needed from the at the time “trailing US manufacture”. This design quickly became a leading edge research and got spun off into it’s own section called Acorn RISC/Research Machines (depending on who you ask). ARM as was rather wisely decided that rather than manufacture chips, they would licence the designs for them, and in the process became probably the worlds largest industrial IP entity. Depending on how you measure these things what we now call “arm” is perhaps the most successful of CPU companies with over 160billion chips and most of the “Smart Device” and “mobile phone” market as well as some of the worlds highest performance super computers. So much so it got bought up by a supposadly Japanese tech investment company (SoftBank) backed we now know in part by Chinese money (though the UK Gov it turns out did know this). The result is it’s now in the process of being taken over by a US graphics chip company (Nvidia) who will probably do the usual and either kill it off or “sell bits of it on” effectively breaking the expertise up… With this time the World being the looser, not just the UK.

A word to the wise for technology companies, whilst military contracts might appear lucrative, they mostly destroy the companies and the bits get passed off to “The Favoured Few” in the MIC. So stear well clear and fight any preditory moves.

metaschima May 7, 2021 8:12 AM

Great video. Tommy Flowers got totally shafted. He was a genius and ended up broke and unrecognized. I guess that’s what happens to people who are geniuses, they go unrecognized or other people take the credit and the fame and the money. And it seems the British government destroyed most of the remaining Colossus machines so that they could sell Lorenz machines to other countries, broken crypro, the age old trick that happens even today with many secret agencies. I imagine it has been kept classified for many reasons, but I do wonder if one of them is that this machine and derivatives of it have probably continued to be used. I mean in the Cold war the Russians used the one time pad to transmit information, but if you reuse the key it deteriorates into a Vernam cypher and is breakable, by one of these machines likely. I’m sure upgrades to these purpose built machines have been made over the years to allow them to break it more and more quickly.

Denton Scratch May 7, 2021 10:12 AM


“The UK had arguably started the “Home Computer” revelotion”

You are presumably referring to the ZX80?

I cite the Commodore PET, the Apple II, and the TRS80. They all predate the ZX80. And they’re all american.

I think your claim that the ZX80 had a flimsy case because UK industry hadn’t re-tooled since the end of the war, is pretty tendentious. Sinclair mmanufactured things to astonishingly basic standards.

He first produced an audio amplifier, using (innovatively) integrated circuit pre-amps. They routinely burned out, or the power amp cards fried; they had to be replaced regularly. And analogue ICs were pretty new, and very noisy. Even when they were working, those amps were crap.

Then he produced a pocket calculator. It was cheap, and broke down after as little as a few months.

Then he produced a watch/calculator. I never knew anyone who owned one, but they were flimsy, ugly, and definitely not made to last.

Then the ZX80; then the ZX81.

Then the Sinclair C5 – universally ridiculed, and flimsy.

All of these things were flimsy, because Sinclair’s business model was to build to minimum possible price. It’s not because British industry was incapable of building anything better; ICL was building serious mainframes as early as the 60s. Remember Wilson’s “White heat of technological revolution”? That was the 60s.

The QL was pretty much OK, for the price. I liked the 68K processor (68008, I think). The QL wasn’t flimsy. I suspect it’s the only good product he made; it didn’t sell well.

It wasn’t until the 90s that Britain had repaid its war debt to the USA; but by the late 60s, British industry and infrastructure were in reasonable shape.

Denton Scratch May 7, 2021 10:31 AM


“some funny little company called Acorn”

Yes, that eventually turned into ARM Holdings. Acorn won the contract to build the BBC Micro, which was specced to go with a BBC TV series about computers. It was well-built, expandable, had quite a few ports, a real keyboard and so on. I really wanted one, but couldn’t justify the expenditure. I bought a Jupiter Ace instead, and learned Forth.

Research Machines was a company targeting the education/schools market; they declined to tender for the contract to build a microcomputer for the BBC. They manufactured the RM Nimbus, which I fancied. They had a bad record of mmaking all their ports industry-incompatible. If you wanted a mouse, you had to get it from RM, or get out a soldering iron. If you wanted a floppy drive, or memory, that was RM too. As a school governor, I was pretty annoyed at a UK company that was targetting UK (state-funded) schools, playing those games with lock-in and proprietary plugs.

xcv May 7, 2021 10:49 AM

@ Denton Scratch

They had a bad record of mmaking all their ports industry-incompatible

Those are MIL-SPEC chips with a different pin layout from the civilian versions typically put out by the same manufacturers.

There’s something about that whether it’s an IC in a DIP package or “the usual” chip+PIN for a debit or credit card, required for consumers who have to spend all their money at the Establishment.

That’s Dwight D. Eisenhower’s dreaded Military Industrial Complex at work in all its glory of course.

Operated by “Wrens” — sexually harassed females in non-combatant dress uniforms with “off-the-shoulders” haircuts.

Winter May 7, 2021 10:51 AM

“The result is it’s now in the process of being taken over by a US graphics chip company (Nvidia) who will probably do the usual and either kill it off or “sell bits of it on” effectively breaking the expertise up… ”

Time for a new platform. RiscV/OpenRisc?

Winter May 7, 2021 11:00 AM

“Thus British politicians discovered they had no freedom any technelogical advance that might have made Britain a world power again got quashed by the US demanding war debt back.”

What explains the different paths of the UK and Germany? Germany was utterly broke after the war and all it’s infrastructure and industry were gone (including all IP).

The common explanation I hear is that Germany banked their future on education while British industry lost out due to a chronic skills shortage.

Clive Robinson May 7, 2021 12:29 PM

@ Denton Scratch,

I cite the Commodore PET, the Apple II, and the TRS80. They all predate the ZX80. And they’re all american.

The Apple ][ was over 2000UKP in the UK in the late 1970’s when many were still earning ~100/week. The Commodore PET was not realy available unless you were a Uni or School. As for the Research Machines Z80 with it’s 8″ drives, you only were alowed to purchase one with a UK Education Discount, the “list price” was over 4500UKP and schools got discounts / grants for around 3000GBP but even then they realy were not popular in their “battle Armour” 19″ steel rack… Oh I had occasion to visit them for a job interview and lets just say my view was the whole lot should shift nrxt door which was a grave yard… They thought they had a secure market because of contacts in the Deot of Education… Well that kind of got blown out of the water by the BBC Model B (the A was kind of scarce) I’ve still got it’s predecessor in full working order which was the Acorn Atom.

But they all had injection moulded cases other than the Sinclair ZX80/81 and Ace (of which I’ve a couple somewhere) these used really shoddy “vaccume formed” cases. The reason vaccume forming had about 100GBP of “former” tooling where as injection moulding cost even then 10s of thousands for high volume tooling.

By the way Acorn used “Cherry Keyboards” in both the Atom and BBC computers.

The sad thing about the Jupiter Ace was they made it compatible with Sinclair Extension Memory and I/O devices only Sinclair kind of changed the timings a bit so they became unreliable.

Sinclair learnt a leason wirh the 80/81 and for the Spectrum he did use injection molded cases, but… He still went for the “poke the dead flesh” rubber keyboard… You might remember The Post Office as was had been split and British Telecom was one part and inhereted both Dolis Hill and Martlsham Heath. They decided to take the Spectrum give it a better case micro drives and a few other things and called it the “Tonto” wgich I suspect can from the “lone Ranger” and some one thought ment “side kick” actually in Spanish it means “Idiot”… And the story got around and it just did not sell. A little while later Amstrad actually cracked the office market with the CPC and later vaguely IBM PC compatibles. What did Amstrad in was he made the mistake of not having the correct contract with the company he got the Hard Drives from. They basically sold him out of spec duds, by the time he won in court it was three years down the line and Amstrad were a bygone hanging in with Fax Machines and Pagers and his own Telephone / Email terminal. It was a “walled Garden” product and wrnt down a similar path to Haydes as AOL did.

But the “Home Computer” market with 100-200GBP afordable computers did start in the UK. The TRS80 was slimed down to get it in that price range and the TI computers came along trying to do the same thing, but giving you upgrades via expansion packs, that due to the way they plugged together made it less than usefull and reliability suffered. Comodor eventually brought out the C64 and although popular and still has a significant fan base did not realy take off in the way hoped of it.

The Apple ][ soldiered on compeating against the IBM PC for quite a while due to the very large amount of software and importantly IO cards especially for the likes of industrial and instrumentation control and you would still see them in “Test Labs” into the mid and late 1990’s (some of us still have them and still support both hardware and software on them). Most have forgoton what MicroSoft realy got going with, which was CP/M cards for Apple ][ computers. I had the misfortune of meating Bill Gates back then, I’d developed a little gizmo that made the 6502 in the Apple run at 2MHz not 1MHz except for when it addressed the video memory addresses and IO card addresses in essence Microsoft wanted me to accomodate their CP/M card at a higher speed. Whilst it was possible with just a tiny change having already experimented with it I knew it could be problamatic with some of Apple’s hardware extensions, so I was not keen and declined. Microsoft went elsewhere but I do not remember ever seeing a product come to market.

The thing was back in the late 70’s and early 80’s it was possible to “know the entire market” in terms of hardware and IO and I kind of did, which got awkward because a number of journalists got my phone number and they asked me for advice… Two who were not a bother were Guy Kewney (RIP) and Neil Gaiman who was doing his “I’ll write for anyone on any subject stint” as a journyman journalist. I would bumb into the them from time to time at computer shows (I was at them every other week in those days) usually at a bar and we’d chat a bit over a pint. I was seen by some as a bridge from “adults to the kids” being in my 20’s not mid teens and employed… Also quite a few on both sides knew “I was the one who got away” with a rather embarrassing issue for BT. My sixth sense warned me they were trouble and even though I told Robert Schifreen and Steve Gold (RIP) to steer well clear of BT they did not and ended up getting convicted of Fraud as there was no computer misuse legislation back then… I’ve since found out that Apparrntly Maggie Thatcher wanted my blood if not other body parts. Basically the Government was preparing BT for being sold off and my little bit of “reporting” apparently stuffed a massive great spoke in the wheel… So Maggie wanted somebodies hide to nail on the wall, she did not get mine but she did for a short while get Robert and Steve’s hides till the House of Lords told the Government to go form some proper legislation. The sad thing is both Robert and Steve were trying to do the responsible thing and report a grave security fault that BT stupidly were responsible for…

CarpetCat May 8, 2021 4:09 PM

Clive autobiography when? I think such a tome would give Schneier a run for best seller.

Cassandra May 8, 2021 4:33 PM

@Clive Robinson

I’ll echo CarpetCat and plead for you to write an unexpurgated autobiography. Knowing what I do of you, I expect it will need to be published posthumously, and possibly outside the UK: but please make sure it happens. True stories, as opposed to the official ones, are important.


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