Allen Coombs

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Allen Coombs
Allen William Mark Coombs

(1911-10-23)23 October 1911
Died30 January 1995(1995-01-30) (aged 83)
OccupationElectronics Engineer

Allen William Mark (Doc) Coombs (23 October 1911 – 30 January 1995) was a British electronics engineer at the Post Office Research Station, Dollis Hill. He was one of the principal designers of the Mark II or production version of the Colossus computer used at Bletchley Park for codebreaking in World War II, and took over leadership of the project when Tommy Flowers moved on to other projects.

Later, he headed the scientific side of R14, the division working on optical character recognition for postal mechanisation, which moved to the new BT Research Centre at Martlesham in Suffolk. His work on pattern recognition led to the development of an early postcode-reading machine.

He frequently lectured on pattern recognition using the concept of multi-dimensional space, and the 'caltrop', and would demonstrate the presence of feature-detection in the human visual system by means of a flash gun, the persistence of vision in the audience leading them to observe disintegration of a character fragment by fragment. 'Doc' Coombs was notable for a facial 'tic', which gave him something of the appearance of the 'mad professor', and these days would probably be classed under Tourette's syndrome.


Coombs, Allen W. M. (July 1983), "The Making of Colossus", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 5 (3): 253–259, doi:10.1109/MAHC.1983.10085

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