Tony Sale, ‘Colossus’ crypto machine rebuilder, dies at 80
Tony Sale, the leader of the project to rebuild the code-breaking Colossus computer, has died at the age of 80.
Sale and his wife Margaret were part of the team which, in 1991, undertook the campaign to save Bletchley Park, the site where World War II code-breakers worked to crack the German High Command’s communications.
Two years later, he headed up the project to rebuild the Colossus – the world’s first electronic computer – which had been designed to decipher the encryptions of the Germans’ Lorenz machine. Breaking the Enigma and Lorenz codes helped the Allies shorten the war by months and probably saved thousands of lives.
The Colossus project was “daunting and hugely complex” as the team only had small fragments of information to work with, according to the National Museum of Computing (TNMOC), which Sale co-founded.
Sale was born in 1931 and showed a keen interest in engineering and electronics from an early age, building his first robot out of Meccano, the museum said.
His career started in the Royal Air Force, where he was a flying officer and lectured on radar. He then spent five years at Marconi’s Research Laboratories from 1952, after which he joined MI5, where he became principal scientific officer.
During the ’60s and ’70s he was involved in a number of software companies before he became interested in computer restoration work in the 1980s.
“Tony Sale’s passing is a tremendous loss to us all on a personal and professional basis,” said Andy Clark, chairman of TNMOC trustees.
“Tony’s contributions to the National Museum of Computing have been immense and I am quite sure that without his remarkable talents, enthusiasm and drive, the museum would not have come into existence. The rebuilding of a functioning Colossus Mk II, Tony’s homage to the wartime code-breakers of the Lorenz cipher at Bletchley Park, is such a remarkable piece of work that it will forever be the model of excellence to which the museum aspires.” ®