Bletchley Park is somewhere that I have wanted to visit for quite a while given it’s historical significance to both the country and myself. To the country for the work on cracking Enigma and to me as so many of the iconic computers I have worked on are housed in the separate National Museum of Computing there.
The park museum was brought to life for us by a talk showing the Enigma machine in action and explaining how it worked. This meant that we got to see the machine with the protective glass casing removed and even better beneath the keyboard so you could see the inner workings. This was followed by a short talk and demonstration of one of the ‘bombe’ machines. Regrettably I struggled to understand this as well as I had the Enigma explanation.
We then wandered around the rest of the park looking into some of the huts that are open to the general public but none were as interesting as the main museum.
After lunch we made our way to National Museum of Computing. The Colossus and Tunny galleries are open daily but the rest of the museum is only open on selected days. The place is a veritable Tardis going on for seemingly ever covering computing over a very long period and includes the worlds oldest working computer.
What was fascinating to Helen and I was that it has so many of the computers we have used in our lives, including a room housing an ICL 2900 which we both used extensively in our first job at CAP in Reading. We were able to reminisce about VME, Application Master and magnetic tapes!
Of course, this may well not have the same significance to you but it is still a fascinating snapshot of just how far computing has come in a very short space of time.
If you are to visit Bletchley I would ensure that you enquire before setting off if a demonstration is due for day of your visit as if made a world of difference to our tour. Also make sure that you go on a day when the Nation Museum of Computing is fully open (currently Thursday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 12 noon) as you can pass quite a bit of time there but be aware that there is a separate charge for this.
If you like your history, code braking and computing then there is no better place to be than Bletchley Park.