back to article 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 …


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  1. AdamW

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    He will be missed, I had a chance to meet him, great bloke.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Me too

      Chatted with him at Bletchley Park - a really nice bloke and enthusiastic speaker and engineer. Sadly missed.

    2. PyLETS

      Saw him a couple of years ago

      Enthusiastically demonstrating the Collossus rebuild to visitors, of which I was one.

      1. Dances With Sheep

        Me too

        Chatted with him at Bletchley park only a few months ago.... He was a top bloke.

        One of the things he said is the difficulty of getting hold of VINTAGE VALVES for colossus computer. If you have any old 1940's valves knocking about in a drawer, send 'em to a good home....

        1. Giles Jones Gold badge


          I know that Russia was a good place to get valves a few years ago. The valve amplification and distortion revival resulted in many people looking for them.

          However, I would imagine such parts in a 40s computer would be much larger.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Never met him :-(

      Wish i had had the opportunity.... condolences to the family. RIP

    4. Andrew Newstead

      Tony Sale

      Like a lot of people here I had the privelidge of meeting him and discussing the Colossus rebuild about 5 years ago. I took a party of BTEC IT students to BP to see the machine and Tony gave a superb talk and demo. He also enjoyed a quick challenge when asked by a student how fast the machine was compared to a modern computer and between us we managed to figure that the machine was running at about 0.25 hz!

      Tony Sale, a great bloke! I don't know if he indulged or not but I will raise a pint to his name.


  2. Peter Simpson 1

    A great loss

    He was a passionate advocate for Bletchley Park and will be missed.

    RIP, Tony, and good on ya.

    //mine's the one with the one time pad in the pocket

  3. g3hpp

    Re: The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits

    I met Tony a few times - He was a real engineer, full of enthusiasm and a very sad loss. He was a great guy.


  4. Tchou

    "and probably saved thousands of lives."

    Well, um, sad to say but it depend from the point of view...

    It may have saved as much americans as it killed germans.

    A human live is a human live, isn't it?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      no point of view needed

      By shortening the length of the war, there will be less killed on BOTH sides. By breaking the codes the ALLIES (note: not just Americans) were able to know the positions and tactics of the AXIS (note: not just Germans) and therefore avoid heavy fighting.

      1. Giles Jones Gold badge


        They often say Hitler's poor decisions helped shorten the war too. Plan to assassinate him were devised but they felt it was better to keep him in power as he wasn't a good strategist.

        1. Alan Firminger


          But many of Hitler's 'poor' decisions were the result of allied deception, which was constructed using all the decrypt evidence. And the Fish decrypts from Colossus were vital to that.

          Hitler led the Germans into a terrible mess, which made him the worst person to lead an escape. Leadership is about leadership. Of course that's a tautology but we often think that it is primarily about decisions. We have an example in recent UK history.

  5. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Gone too soon

    I met him a couple of times. I didn't realise how old he was. He didn't *act* like someone in their late 70s.

    R.I.P. Tony (no shortage of valves where you've gone)

  6. Jay Jaffa

    A shame

    I had the good fortune to speak with the amn when he demonstrated his work in the hut at Bletchley. It's a shame to lose a man of his character.


  7. Andy Parker 1

    A great man

    Echoing Adam's comment, I also enjoyed the privilege of meeting Tony six years ago and I found his enthusiasm highly infectious. His spirit of tenacity, curiosity, and persistence belied the fact that he was well into his seventies. Whilst I am saddened at his passing, I am grateful to you for recognising his many achievements and publishing this piece El Reg. I am sure others will feel the same way.

  8. Mike Richards

    Sad news

    I had the good fortune to be given a guided tour by Tony last year and his enthusiasm for every aspect of the Museum was evident and infectious. His a huge loss and my sympathies go to his friends and family.

  9. Snake Doctor

    Tony Sale......

    Top Bloke

  10. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Infectiously enthusiastic

    I saw him demonstrate the Colossus rebuild at Bletchley and he struck me as a true enthusiast. He has left an excellent legacy.

  11. eJ2095

    Very nice man

    He let me and my friend behind the back of Collossus to take some phots of the machine in infrared. (looked way cool)

    Was chatting to hime for a couple of hours sat in the back about the machine.

    and yes that machine chucks out some heat.

    Hope bletchly dedicate the machine to his memory :-0

  12. wibbilus maximus

    RIP to a true gentleman

    Met Tony a couple of times and had the privilege of being taken by him to see the back of the Colossus which is usually hidden form the public. Will be sorely missed. RIP

  13. Caerdydd_Mike

    A sad day.

    R.I.P. Tony. I was lucky to see him demonstrating the Colossus on two occasions. His enthusiasm was infectious. Put me down to adopt his Squirrel. If you've been you'll know what I mean.

  14. Big-nosed Pengie

    RIP Tony

    I had the privilege of chatting to him at BP a few years ago. He was one of the greats.

  15. Steve Evans

    RIP Tony

    Although I can't help thinking SJQ would be more suitable.

  16. Chris Miller

    Among his many achievements

    If I can add to the paean of praise, he was also 'Q' - or, at least, Principal Scientific Officer at MI5*.

    I trust there are folk at BP who can keep Colossus running, but what will we do when the valves eventually run out? Better go and see it working while you still can!

    * Yes Bond was at MI6, but still ..

  17. Fogcat


    I didn't know him, but I regret his passing.

    And any one who is geeky enough to visit the reg comment section really should make an effort to visit Bletchley.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wonderful Chap

    I was lucky enough to meet him on several occasions, immensely enthusiastic about all aspects of engineering, one of my favourite memories was after myself and a few friends had gone down to BP and watched Tony run a demo of Colossus, at the end he was shaking the tin for money as he always did. I went to put £10 in and accidentally pulled out a £50.

    Before I even realised, and moving far faster than a man of his years should be capable of there was a sudden "Here, let me help you with that" and the £50 was swiftly swiped, folded and put into the tin.

    I count myself lucky he didn't decide to pick me up by my ankles and shake any loose change from me :)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Born in 1931 eh... so that made him what ? 12 wen he started at Bletchley ? Smart kid !

  20. philpem


    Today the world has lost a truly great engineer.

    I'll never forget seeing his talk about the Colossus rebuild at VCF-GB a few years back. That had to be the highlight of my visit.

    RIP, Tony. You will be missed.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Is the birthdate correct?

    The article lists his d.o.b. as in 1931. If that's correct, he'd be in his early teens in WWII?? A true prodigy?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is the birthdate correct?

      I think you are making the assumption that Tony worked on the original Colossus.

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