In memory of Tony Sale – the Mastermind behind the rebuilding of Collosus

Many of you may have heard the sad news of the death of Tony Sale, one of the founders of the Bletchley Park Trust and a key campaigner for its rescue and restoration. Mr. Sale had a long career as a talented engineer with an avid interest in computing, and he dedicated himself tirelessly to the rebuilding of Colussus, the world’s first operational computer.

As the BBC Reports:

Tony Sale built a working robot out of scrap from a crashed bomber

Tony Sale, the brilliant engineer who led the rebuild of Colossus, the first modern computer, has died aged 80. The mammoth project to recreate the code-cracking Colossus capped a career built around electronics and computers. Most recently, Mr Sale drove the campaign to save Bletchley Park, where Colossus aided Allied code-cracking efforts during World War II. At Bletchley he also founded the National Museum of Computing to help preserve the UK’s ageing computers.

Born in 1931, Mr Sale displayed his talent for engineering at an early age by building a robot, called George I, out of Meccano. One of the later versions of George was built from the remains of a Wellington bomber. Instead of going to university, Mr Sale joined the RAF, which nurtured his engineering talent, and by the age of 20 he was lecturing pilots and aircrew about advances in radar.

Tony Sale describes how the Colossus worked

His career also included a six-year stint as a scientific officer at MI5. He rose to become principal scientific officer of the intelligence agency and aided the work of spycatcher Peter Wright. On leaving MI5 he established, ran and sold a variety of software and engineering firms.

During the late 1980s Mr Sale’s job at the Science Museum nurtured an interest in old computers. This led to the creation of the Computer Conservation Society which leads efforts to restore many key machines. His interest led to the 14-year project that saw the re-creation of the pioneering Colossus computer. During wartime, Colossus gave the Allies an insight into the communications of the German high command.

The rebuilding work was difficult because the original Colossus machines were broken up at the end of WWII and all plans for it were destroyed. The rebuilt Colossus became the centrepiece of The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) that Mr Sale established at Bletchley Park.

“Tony Sale’s passing is a tremendous loss to us all on a personal and professional basis,” said Andy Clark, chairman of the 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,” said Mr Clark.

And as the Inquirer reports:

The rebuilding of Colossus was a monumental challenge involving much research and a solid understanding of very advanced mathematics as well as the engineering skills to assemble such a machine. The machine had played a vital part in the war effort from 1944 onwards.

Sale worked tirelessly to ensure that Bletchley Park was preserved for the nation and, along with his wife Margaret, was part of a small team that started the campaign for Bletchley Park and ultimately saved it for the nation. He dedicated his long retirement almost entirely to his work at the Trust and subsequently the National Museum of Computing based at Bletchley Park.

Bletchley Park houses the National Museum of Computing. During World War II, it was the site of the UK’s main decryption establishment, the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), where the ciphers and codes of several Axis countries were decrypted.

Simon Greenish, director of the Bletchley Park Trust, paid tribute to Sale’s work, saying that “Tony’s contribution to the early days of the development of the Trust when the site was under very real threat of development was fundamental and without him, the Bletchley Park site and its hugely important history would perhaps not have survived. His work on re-building Colossus was an enormous challenge and took many years to complete.”

Sale’s achievements have been recognised in recent years with Honorary Doctorates from three Universities. He also met the Queen on a recent visit when she unveiled a memorial at Bletchley Park to honour its wartime veterans.

Sale is survived by his wife Margaret, their three children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Do watch the video posted on BBC Technology to fully appreciate his accomplishments. We hope that when you come to Bletchley Park for Over the Air, you will spend some time in the National Museum of Computing admiring Colussus and his efforts. Be sure to check out his robot George while you’re at it!

If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration for the Hack-a-thon, get yourself in the Code-breaking mood by reading Tony’s notes about his contributions to the ‘Enigma’ movie (pop quizz – what’s the connection between Mick Jagger and Bletchley?)


Mobile Encryption – Easy to Crack?

Wondering about the modern state of data encryption and the security level of mobile traffic? If you’re thinking that attention has been lagging in this area, even with the recent voice-mail hacking scandal, you wouldn’t be wrong… Check out this recent piece of news about the latest Karsten Nohl cracks:

A German computer boffin has worked out a way to crack code used to encrypt most of the world’s mobile Internet traffic.

Karsten Nohl is going to publish a guide to prompt global operators to improve their safeguards.

Iti s not the first time that Nohl has hit the headlines for doing this sort of thing. In 2009 he published the algorithms used by mobile operators to encrypt voice conversations on digital phone networks.

Now he and his chum Luca Melette, intercepted and decrypted wireless data using an inexpensive, modified, 7-year-old Motorola mobilephone, a couple of free software applications and some double sided sellotape. The pair managed to intercepted and decrypte data traffic in a five-kilometer, or 3.1-mile, radius.

 His modified phone was used to test networks in Germany, Italy and other European countries. In Germany, decrypted and read data transmissions on T-MobileO2 Germany, Vodafone and E-Plus. This was pretty easy because the level of encryption was weak.

In Italy Telecom Italia, and Wind did not encrypt their mobile data transmissions at all and Vodafone Italia only provided weak encryption.

O2, which is owned by Telefónica of Spain, told the New York Times that it was following Nohl’s research closely and would take account his findings in its own operations.

Nohl, makes his cash working for mobile operators who hire him to detect vulnerabilities in their systems. He said that many operators run unencrypted data networks because it allows them to more easily filter out competing, unwanted services like Skype.

Read more:


Vodafone are a Sponsor of OTA11

We are pleased to announce that Vodafone are Sponsors of Over the Air 2011

Vodafone developer and Vodafone Foundation are working together to promote the development of IT applications designed to improve the lives of people with disabilities and older people to help them become more actively involved in society. And to support this they have launched a new competition, ed The Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards with a total prize fund of €200k split equally between the four winners. The competition is open from 14 June 2011 to 15 October 2011.

The programme is supported and co-organized by AGE Platform Europe, see the European network of around 160 organisations of and for people aged 50+, for sale and the European Disability Forum (EDF), the NGO that represents the interests of 80 million Europeans with disabilities.

To learn more about this initiative and about working with Vodafone then please come speak to the team at Over the Air. You can also find out more about the Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards and enter here –

Ericsson Labs are Gold Sponsor of OTA11

We are pleased to announce that Ericsson Labs are a Gold Sponsor of Over the Air 2011.

Today’s mobile and digital life is expanding into more areas of society and business. We now stand on the brink of fundamental innovation opportunities across industries, viagra ed public services and in private life. Over the coming years, look technology advances and information and communication infrastructure performance will rapidly increase. This will enable new opportunities for people to create, generic learn, sustain and innovate to create a positive impact on our world. We call this new emerging society, of which we have only seen the beginning, the “Networked Society”. At Ericsson Labs we are using innovation to empower people, business and society. We assist innovators – application and software developers – to find inspiration and turn ideas into reality. Our purpose is to support Ericsson’s vision of the Networked Society by working with partners – technology providers and third-party developers.


Pearson is WiFi Sponsor of OTA11

We are pleased to announce that Pearson is sponsoring our WiFi coverage at Over the Air this year, ensuring that we once again have excellent connectivity throughout the event!

Pearson is the world’s leading learning company and includes Penguin, the Financial Times, our Education business, and the Developer platform Plug & Play (

Our education imprints combine 150 years of experience with online support for every learner. We provide education and assessment services in over 75 countries. Every day our work helps learning flourish, and wherever learning  flourishes, so do people.  For more information, please contact Diana Stepner (

Security Stream at OTA 2011

Bletchley Park is renowned for its mathematics work in breaking encryption during the second world war. It is also the home of the world’s first programmable digital computer: Colossus and the National Museum of Computing. Where better to hold a security stream for Over the Air?

Security in the mobile world is increasing in prominence. Convergence of technologies within mobile handsets mean that more people have more reason to attack mobile phones and their users. From mobile payments and company emails to our photo albums, buy cheap our entire lives are centring on one thing – the handset. If we lose our phone it is more than a big deal.

As we all get hooked on our connected lives, malware and virus creators are thinking of new dastardly ways to wreak havoc and steal money from us and even from the developers of the applications we download. Developers need to think more and more about how to protect their own applications and user data, alongside being responsible with the private data they have access to.

Speakers in the Over the Air security stream will be giving attendees the low-down on how to secure mobile applications, the evolution of malware and the history of codes and ciphers:

  • What’s going on with security in the mobile industry and what’s coming up?
  •  The threat from mobile malware and how to make sure you don’t develop something bad
  • Stolen and lost phones – can mobile applications help with this problem?
  • Webapp security, signing and app stores
  •  Break the code! – A mobile application challenge for developers

Stay-tuned for Speaker Announcements….


Register for OTA 2011

For the first time, we are introducing a small £5 donation to the Bletchley Park Trust as part of the registration process this year – a tiny cost for us, but with 500+ attendees expected it’s a nice little sum towards the repair and upkeep of the Park. (And of course you are welcome to donate more, if you feel inspired by the Bletchley Park story).

If everyone who attends gives £10 or more we could make a significant contribution towards the roof repair of Hut 12, where the ‘From Bletchley Park, with Love’ exhibit is housed ( Ian Fleming and Real Spies, Double Agents and Bletchley Park). Bletchley Park have kindly offered to give an annual season pass to all attendees who donate £12 or more.

If you prefer using PayPal you can e-mail margaret at overtheair dot org your registration details and make your donation on JustGiving

Online Event Registration with amiando

To pay while viewing on your mobile phone, switch to the Desktop view

The Amiando link within this frame is indeed a secure, encrypted one – but it doesn’t show up that way.  If you prefer you can go to Direct Link on Amiando

If you don’t have a credit card and need to give us cash at the door, just send margaret at overtheair dot org an e-mail with all of the other required registration detail, and we’ll get you sorted.




BlueVia at Over The Air 2011

Hopefully you will have seen that BlueVia is a gold sponsor for this year’s event. This is the third year we have worked with the Over The Air team, ed and once again we are looking forward to a fun packed and creative two days.

So what can you expect from BlueVia over the weekend?

Firstly we will be running code camps for the BlueVia API’s. You can get a taster by checking out our API documentation, watching a few of our short tutorial video’s, and of course playing with our new API console from APIgee.

In addition to that, the crew from BlueVia Labs will be out in force. BlueVia Labs is the place where we release experimental stuff for you to try out and attempt to break. Attendees to OTA 2010 may be familiar with #Blue – well its back and one year older, so you can do even cooler stuff than before. Richard Spence will be on hand throughout the weekend to get you started.

In addition to that, we will be announcing two new services at OTA 2011, wandering around filming the whole event and interviewing you, plus coming armed with a ton of prizes and other schwag to liberally chuck in the direction of anyone hacking with our stuff.

To get a feel of what you may be able to do with BlueVia over the weekend, listen to Tom from Future Platforms give you his two cents on BlueVia:

[vimeo clip_id=”26050995″]

The Program for Over the Air 2011 is Taking Shape

We’re working hard to put together the program for Over the Air 2011. We’ve had many many high-quality session proposals come in via our online form and we’re in the process of sifting through all of these. Expect some announcements here soon, and for those of you who have submitted session proposals, we will be back to you by email soon either way. Submissions are also still being accepted.

Does the cloud increase corporate security?

The Shaping Cloud blog has an interesting post arguing that the horde of Cloud-service-provider security experts beavering away at keeping security tight will ultimately enhance Corporate IT security efforts and speed up the adoption of Cloud services:

“Internet security will always be a valid concern and services will always be subject to increasingly sophisticated attacks. Companies may feel more secure with their servers on-site, but in reality if they have an internet connection, location is of no consequence – it is just as vulnerable in one place as it is in another. By using the cloud companies suddenly have an army of dedicated people committed to maintaining security. They don’t need to rely solely on an in-house or outsourced provider who often have multiple duties to perform and where security will often get pushed down the priority list as they deal with the day-to-day IT issues that occur in all companies. For the vast majority of companies today, a move to the cloud will actually enhance their security and compliance levels. What many people view as a barrier to cloud adoption should, in our view, actually be seen as a driving factor behind take-up.”

There are certainly many mainstream IT companies providing services in this area, with Microsoft standing out in particular: “The amount of money Microsoft have allocated to developing cloud services is staggering – this year it will be 90% of their annual Research and Development budget totalling $8.5 billion. ”

Many of us will have anecdotes of their corporate IT department not allowing applications like Skype because they aren’t officially supported, but as people increasingly use their own smartphones and tablets to get around the corporate firewall, I wonder whether the internal IT department is loosing it’s hold anyways..