Bletchley Park and the Collosus of Computing

Something a bit different for this post, a short review of a recent trip to Bletchley Park with an old college mate. We both work in the IT industry and had talked about a visit to the park to see the worlds first electronic, programmable computer, which has been recently been rebuilt.
Bletchley Park is also home to Britains centre of codebreaking during world war 2 and until the 1970’s was a complete secret.

The new national computing museum had also just opened up and it was a chance to relive some of our home micro memories.
An opportunity came up and we both travelled to Milton Keynes, where the park is located.

I won’t go into huge amounts of detail, but just mention some particular aspects that will hopefully give you an idea of why it would be worth you visiting Bletchley Park and why it is worth supporting.

Thanks to the maps provided on the Bletchley Park website www.bletchleypark.org.uk we managed to successfully navigate the Milton Keynes road system!

Once we’d parked up and collected our tickets (if you choose order and collect on the website, you get a small discount), we were told about a guided tour around the site, which started from the manor house shortly. Despite the impression I got from the map, the site is smaller than I thought. All the buildings are within short walking distance and disabled access is pretty good. There are ramps at all the entrances (very shallow) and alternative lifts/entrances to the main block where the tickets are collected from. The only part I’m not sure has a disabled access is the first floor part of ‘B block’ where some of the exhibits are located.

The tour guide was knowledgeable and it was obvious he had a large amount of information to impart and almost spoke non-stop for the full length of the tour, ninety minutes long.

The Collosus Mk2 rebuild was the highlight of the visit, now fully operational. It seems incredible that all modern computers were effectively derived from this and is a testament to the original builders genius and the volunteers who have painstakinly built this working replica.

Collosusmk2.jpg

You can visit the homepage for the Collosus Mk2 at:- www.codesandciphers.org.uk . The upkeep of the display relies on donations, so if you visit please give generously.

Alan Turing played an incredibly significant part during WW2, not only contributing to codebreaking but also the theoretical and practical applications of computing. He has been honoured by the installation of a statue by artist Stephen Kettle and is worth seeing (image below).

turingstatue.jpg

The national museum of computing is a recent addition to the Bletchley Park site and contains some of the equipment that could have been seen in any computer room from the 1960’s. There are displays of some of the earliest pocket calculators through popular home micros of the 1980’s and mainframe systems. The museum is a registered charity and though it is located on the same site at Bletchley Park, it relies on donations from the public to keep running.

It was good to see some of the old ’80’s home micros and took me back to the ‘computer wars’ fought in the playgrounds of my youth, whose system was better… Etc hmmm some
things never change…!

The National Museum of Computing can be found at:- http://www.tnmoc.org .

Something that I learnt whilst a Bletchley Park was that the ‘Enigma’ machine wasn’t just one machine, but several different machines from different manufacturers. There are several examples of these different types with large displays of information and historical displays of items from the war.

Enigma.jpg

bpdisplays.jpg

Walking around the park you really do get a sense of the atmosphere and the amazing work that was undertaken during war by everyone involved. Thankfully the park has recently received a grant for improvements, however it still needs everones support and a ticket bought is valid for free (excluding parking) entrance for year, which is great value. There is so much more to the park that we wern’t able to see simply because of available time, a return visit is most definitely in the diary soon!

Posted by Wordmobi

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