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

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with NightMar on Elm St.🎃 (yes i know it’s january)

NightMar on Elm St.🎃 (yes i know it’s january) Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @histoftech

Sep 23, 2018
This is how women's histories disappear right before our eyes--their images used as window dressing while they are anonymized right out of their own stories, by folks who assume they are nothing more than stock photos & deprive them of any say over how their images are used.
Just to add a little background about why I'm banging on about this, why it's a big deal:

In my research, I found hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures of unnamed women computer operators and programmers. And:
For a long time, people took the fact that their names hadn't been recorded to erroneously claim they'd "just been brought in for the photo" & were "just pretty faces to humanize the machine" instead of being real workers. Here's a rare pic where a woman programmer was named:
Read 15 tweets
Aug 13, 2018
Lol. Tell that to the millions of women faking orgasms for most of modern history. We are *well* into the age of artificial intimacy.…
If you think this kind of one-sided non-empathic emotional connection came from the age of bots, plz let me introduce you to this thing called "the history of gender and sexuality."
my hot take, which I'm sure no one needs to hear: pretending robots have made us unfeeling is hilariously ahistorical. Look at all the ways we've abused and continue to abuse other people in non-empathetic ways. Caring bots are an effect rather than a cause.
Read 7 tweets
Jul 26, 2018
Once again for the people in the back:
Facebook started as Facemash--a hot-or-not ripoff site that stole women undergrads' pics off internal Harvard "facebook" servers in order to humiliate and demean them. FOR CLICKS. FOR FUN. JUST TO SEE IF HE COULD.
The copy Zuckhole put on his inaugural Facemash site, above women's pics: "Were we let in [to Harvard] for our looks? No. Will we be judged on them? Yes."
Read 11 tweets
Jun 21, 2018
"Dr Isabel Gal worked at Queen Mary’s hospital for children in the 1960s, when her research suggested that a hormone-based pregnancy test drug called Primodos caused birth defects similar to those seen with thalidomide."

And she's not even listed on Wikipedia's page for Primodos
It talks about her important research but obscures her, while nonetheless prominently naming a man who did far less relevant research. This is how the myth of men's contributions being greater than women's persists. It infects the very structures through which we know the world:
Isn't it interesting how when you take those 2 sentences away, the paragraph doesn't make sense, because there's no clear causality? And yet that's what the page looked like before I changed it tonight.

Erasing women often leads to history not making sense.
Read 5 tweets
Jun 16, 2018
Love this question--and would love to hear all of your answers to it:
Here's mine, going from undergrad to grad school: when I got the idea for my undergrad thesis I was sitting in a lecture on medieval women, and the lecturer mentioned, totally as an aside, that she hadn't been allowed into most of the Oxford colleges when she was a student...
... because she was a woman. And she was still salty about it. For her it was practically yesterday. For my generation it was "history" that we barely knew--because not much had been written about it, and the struggles over it.
Read 19 tweets
Jun 10, 2018
Sunday family history quiz: Did your grandmother(s) work "outside the home" for any period of time? If so, what did they do?

Mine: farmer, then textile factory worker

(Don't know about the other one.)
Bonus if you can describe how it relates to the larger context of what was going on in the world at the time.
Read 4 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!