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  • The National Computer Museum at Bletchley Park

    Posted on September 23rd, 2008 Andy Parkes 5 comments

    I posted a little while back about the good news Bletchley Park received and said that I’d like to visit and take a look around the National Computer Museum

    Well as a bit of a weird coincidence I’d completely forgotten that we’d arranged a visit to Milton Keynes on the Saturday immediately after the post

    Said friends actually live in the Bletchley area which made things even easier so I dragged one of my friends along

    First up we had a quick look around the mansion which was a fantastic looking buildingMansion 

    In here there were details of the history of some of the famous names such Alan Turing (wikiepedia entry here)

    After that we had a quick look through the huts where all the code breaking took place

    DSC_0250 Listening station – she didn’t say much DSC_0254 Alan Turing’s office

    After that we jumped onto the end of one of the tours and heard all about “bombes” that were used to break the Enigma Machine

    DSC_0261 I won’t try to explain how the bombes worked!

    Then it was onto the part I’d been waiting for and the National computer museum where we got to see the Colossus rebuild project 

    DSC_0265 Colossus was the world’s first programmable computer.

    DSC_0278 It had no storage though and all output was directly to a typewriter

    DSC_0276 Calculations were performed using valves and the black valve on the left of this picture is an original valve used during the war! Apparently they have about 10 years worth of spare valves so if you have any old gadgets lying around that have valves they welcome donations

    The rebuild project has been led for the last 14 years (!) by the legend that is Tony Sale. Most of the documentation was restored and whole project started from just 8 1945 photographs and some fragments of circuit diagrams some of the original engineers had been keeping illegally (good job geeks are hoarders!)

    DSC_8448 Me with Tony Sale

    It was onto the museum proper after that and I was in my element!

    DSC_0294 Calculators and PDA’s! I had one of the Psion’s in this picture!

    DSC_0296 BBC Micro! I actually owned one of these CUB monitors as well. My dad hacked it up so when it was plugged into our spectrum we had sound and volume control. What a mod!

    DSC_0303  Radar!

    DSC_0306 Punch cards!

    DSC_0312 DSC_0309

    DSC_0317 The very first PC we owned had one of these in. Along with 8MB of RAM, a 50MB hard disk and a quad speed CD-ROM

    DSC_0320 Legend!

    DSC_0328  An Apple Mac!

    DSC_0326 Had both of these. An Atari ST and a Amiga 500

    DSC_0342 DSC_0341

    The first two computers I have any memory of! Look at the rubber keys!

    DSC_0362 Why is the screen the wrong way round? Because it’s trying to look like a sheet of paper. This system was just a word processor. Look at the size of it!

    DSC_0367  I want a desk like this in my office!

    I’ll stop there….as you have probably guessed I took a ton of photo’s which I then spent the next week boring friends and family with

    I had a great time with my only “criticism” (not really the right word) was I was expecting to see more hardware as there appears to be lots of gaps in the time periods (Other than a PET I didn’t see much commodore kit for example). But I do understand it’s still pretty new and things are being added all the time and they are running on a shoestring (donate!!) as the museum itself is free! It’s Bletchely Park you have to pay to get in

    If you have any interest in computer history do something to support our computing heritage!

    Other resources:

    The National Museum of Computing (they have newsletters too)

    Bletchley Park

    Codes And Ciphers

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    Andy Parkes is Technical Director at Coventry based IT support company IBIT Solutions. He is also Microsoft Partner Area Lead for 2012-2013 and coordinates AMITPRO which is a peer group for IT Professionals in the Midlands area. He also isn't a fan of describing himself in the third person.

    Latest posts by Andy Parkes (see all)


    5 Responses to “The National Computer Museum at Bletchley Park”

    1. Great write-up Andy – I’m hoping to visit the Museum myself soon. Donation made – looks like a good day out (if you’re an incredible computer geek – which we both happen to happily be!).

    2. Thanks Rich

      Definitely worth the trip. I’d try and go while we still have a bit of good weather left as Bletchly Park itself is all part of the experience

    3. The shame of it is that I only live a dozen miles away and I’ve never got there… looks like that needs to change soon!

    4. Hi Mark

      Thanks for the comment

      Go take a look! Especially if it’s just down the road

    5. […] been to the National Computer Museum before but this was a far more interactive […]

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