Computers that defined the information age brought back to life

It's only fitting that the engineer Tony Sale should lend his name to an award honouring projects that keep the memory of early computers alive.

Sale, who passed away last year, embarked on a 14-year rebuild of the World War II Colossus - the computer which helped crack ciphers used to protect Hitler's communications with his generals - with nothing more than eight photos of the machine.

Last week the winner of the Tony Sale Award for computer conservation was announced in London by the Computer Conservation Society (CCS).

Dr David Link was presented with the award for having "made an outstanding engineering achievement in computer conservation".

Link was recognised for recreating a pioneering 1950s program that generated random love letters, and building a replica of the landmark Ferranti Mark I computer it ran on.

Link spent years sourcing Ferranti parts to build the replica console seen here. Underneath the covers is a modern PC running an emulator of a Ferranti running the LoveLetters program.

David Hartley, member of the CCS Tony Sale Award committee, explained why Link had been chosen to win the inaugural Tony Sale award: "Tony Sale did a remarkable job and he was an incredible character.

"We wanted to reward someone who had done something creative and clever of an engineering nature - building a machine, a replica or discovering some old software and getting it working. We wanted a project that Tony would recognise as being important," he said.

Hartley praised Link for his persistence in researching how LoveLetters and the Ferranti worked, and sourcing the parts to build the replica.

Photo: David Link

By Nick Heath

Nick Heath is a computer science student and was formerly a journalist at TechRepublic and ZDNet.