Bletchley Park

Recently I paid a visit to Bletchley Park near Milton Keynes, home of the British World War II team responsible for cracking the German military Enigma code.

Bletchley Park Huts

As you can see, the park is of more historical interest, than scenic, though being fair, there is a picturesque lake and a more ornate (than the huts!) mansion that I didn’t take pictures of. Read on for more pictures …

As stated, Bletchley Park was home to the Enigma code breaking effort during the second world war. Although a lot of people were involved, this man played a very important role - Mathematician, Alan Turing:

Alan Turing Statue

This is the machine, called The Bombe, that he helped to design and operate:

Bombe

This is what it looks like inside:

Bombe Interior

The machine is actually a modern replica of the original machine. After the war all of the code breaking machines were destroyed as they were still important military technology. It is rumoured, however that there may still be one somewhere in existence that was secretly preserved.

The following pictures are of Colossus - described as one of the first ever electronic programmable computers. It was designed for a specialised task, namely code breaking, so it isn’t fully programmable like a modern computer, making the description is slightly arguable. It is, however, an impressive beast and clacks its way through code breaking while the code is read from paper tape at 30mph. Again, this machine is a replica, not the original.

Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park

These pictures show some of the equipment in the communications room:
Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park

One of my main reasons for visiting Bletchley Park was to visit the new National Museum of Computing. A kind of Geek Pilgrimage, perhaps?

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from the NMoC but I left feeling a little disappointed. It’s early days yet, but I found the museum a little chaotic, sometimes more like being in the junk storage room in an office, than a museum. There’s very little signage describing the exhibits and not much to put the machines in context. Without some sort of explanation they’re just grey and beige (or blue for the Cray Supercomputer below) boxes.

Cray Supercomputer

I took some pictures for sentimental reasons - I have previously owned several of the items shown below. In fact I still own the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, my first ever computer. Currently worth between about £10-£20 on ebay depending how few bids you’d like to receive.

Old Computers
Old Computers

This one’s the Spectrum:

Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Here’s a Psion Organiser like the one I used to carry everywhere.

Old Personal Organisers

This is a punched card sorting machine:

Sorting Machine

These are Symmetry Dice from this book that I bought in the Bletchley Park gift shop. I’d have thought twice about taking on this little project if I’d a) known how much effort it would take b) realised how useless the end product would be. They’re a fun mathematical curiosity that I enjoyed assembling, though.

Symmetry Dice
Symmetry Dice

The end result of all that cutting and glueing:

Symmetry Dice

And finally, since it seems my blog isn’t ever complete without a Harrier Jump Jet picture, here are a couple of shots taken in the car park, of all places:

Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park
Harrier Jump Jet

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