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Bletchley Park Visit

31/08/2013

Bletchley Park

Since our visit last year to Bletchley Park, TNMOC have added a few more old bits. Thus here we go again!

Transport is via personal means and/or car share. No doubt we’ll clear up all details at the Beeston Blue Moon Beers and subsequently on the maillist. Provisionally, the car shares depart Nottingham about 7:30am sometime civilised to arrive for 9:30am sometime in the morning as the gates open so as to beat the crowds. Rendezvous can be via mobiles and the Bletchley Park cafe hut. There’s easily more than enough there to see and do to become completely lost for the day!

John is arranging for a ‘special tour’ for us all via his inside connections for TNMOC in the afternoon.

Cost: £15 for Bletchley, £5 for the National Museum of Computing or £2 Colossus and Tunny only, concessions are available – so bring ID! Don’t forget your passes and ID needed from last year for those so organized!

wikimedia-Enigma-rotors

Also, noone had best mention such as N S A, or G C H Q or Google or the namesake of the highest mountain in Wales! 🙁 (On account of we want to be let in the gates! 😉 )

Please let us know via some means that you are coming,

Cheers,
Martin

Details

Date:
31/08/2013
Event Category:

Venue

The Mansion
Bletchley Park
Milton Keynes, MK3 6EB United Kingdom
+ Google Map
Phone:
0190 8640404

15 comments to Bletchley Park Visit

  • Martin L

    Bletchley Park to go Themed-and-Branded?

    Unfortunately, Bletchley Park is in the news at the moment in non-too bright a light:

    BBC News Video: Bletchley Park’s bitter dispute over its future

    Elderly Bletchley Park volunteer sacked for showing Colossus exhibit to visitors

    Volunteers slam plans to turn Bletchley Park into ‘geeky Disneyland’

    The comments there suggest that the very knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers that have made Bletchley Park what it is are now to be remoulded by actors to give a swish “1 hour” “experience” rather than the rambling tours of old of 90 minutes and (for our visits) sometimes much longer. Also to ‘go’ are such as the hall of Churchill memorabilia, local amateur radio station, and other non-glitzy associated material…

    I think that our “experience” of the place was that the volunteer enthusiasm and functional worn look of the place were very much authentically what Blatchley Park was. The non-glitzy non-museum look makes it all very real for what was done there and when and how. As for the “1 hour” “experience” mentioned: We found there was still yet more to explore after two full days of visits!

    I hope the volunteers and general opinion can save all that is very enthusiastically wartime British about the place and maintains the good will and enthusiasm of the volunteers there who are essential to bring it all alive. Paid actors hopelessly just ‘do not get it’.

    I also hope that the Churchill memorabilia and the lifelong custodian can very soon find new continued life with a welcome somewhere nearby.

    Here’s hoping that a remarkable relic of our recent past is not dumbed down to be a 1 hour dash to the trinkets shop.

    (Usual disclaimer reminder: All just my own personal viewpoint as for all commenters here!)

    ps: Good reminder to write-up and post up the pics from our last visit!… 😛

    • roadSurfer

      Whilst I really enjoyed the experience, they might simply not be bringing the money in. I can understand why what we did might be “dull” to younger children who don’t understand the history or aren’t yet deeply into tech beyond playing games; and trying to engage them to bring in more people is a “good thing”(tm). Although whether the cost of paid actors (who may or may not care about the history) over volunteers (who do care) is offset by increase revenue is a good question.

      The sacking may well have been correct according to the terms of contracts, but it is bone-headed in the extreme. Bletchly attracts one set, NMC attracts another. They can then feed off each other’s slightly different capture demographics. I wonder if the Trust is upset that the NMC has that natty little computer lad wall-to-wall with old Beebs, Segas etc? Kiddy heaven.

      Reminds me, I really must get my BBC B+ down from the loft. I have the 6502 co-pro, I have the disc drive, I have *THE* disc; all I need is a compatible analog joystick and “Elite Executive Edition” here I come. Hmm…I wonder if something could be made to convert a modern USB joystick/game pad into analog signals?

      Anyway; it does sound like they want to flat-pack, portion and commoditise the park into yet another, bland “informercial” type experiences. When will the “Turing Teacups” arrive?

      • Martin L

        … Anyway; it does sound like they want to flat-pack, portion and commoditise the park into yet another, bland “informercial” type experiences. When will the “Turing Teacups” arrive?

        That sounds like the gist of the angst and especially so for how changes are being made… It would be a great shame if the sudden influx of grant money sours the working of the place rather than everyone enjoying the place being sympathetically improved for all.

        Just for one example if they are to stay faithful and sympathetic to the history of the place, there can be no “Turing Teacups” in any merchandising. There should be only the one teacup that Turing left chained to the radiator in Hut 8! 😛

        This blog posting gives a good feel for a non-techie visit to Bletchley Park by someone steeped in the period. Here’s hoping the new glitzy view doesn’t sweep all that away…

        • Martin L

          Meanwhile, from my reading, the Bletchley Park Trust approach towards TNMOC and the various historic computers they hold including such as the Bombe and Colossus looks to be somewhat like bullying and sabotage:

          TNMOC: The bigger picture: fragmenting a heritage site

          The ongoing fencing off and isolation sounds very silly and even destructive towards a dedicated volunteer group. Very sad.

          Can something positive be done?

  • Martin L

    Blechley Park is in the news again, but for much better historic reasons this time round. In rather deadpan The Register style:

    UK spooks STILL won’t release Bletchley Park secrets 70 years on

    There’s more mysteries there yet to unfold?…

    Meanwhile, the BBC add their bit to the 70 years of Colossus celebrations at TNMOC:

    Lifting the lid on a Colossal secret

    As the code-cracking Colossus celebrates its 70th anniversary, John Cane, a former Post Office engineer who helped maintain it, reminisces for the first time about working on the pioneering machine…

    … But if little can be said about his later work, more is now being said about the key role he, and those other engineers, played in the Allied war effort. Despite this, he is modest about the significance of that task.

    “The way I looked at it was that we’d done a job, enjoyed ourselves doing it and been quite safe,” he says. “No-one was dropping bombs on us or doing anything like that.”

    “There’s pride mixed in with that naturally, but it was also a period of technical development and interest that I wouldn’t have missed for anything.”

    Indeed pioneering times. Hopefully not to be fenced off for a second time! 🙁

    • Martin L

      Evidently so for…

      There’s more mysteries there yet to unfold?…

      The story continues with:

      How GCHQ built on a colossal secret

      During World War Two, Britain led the world in its creation of machines that excelled at cracking codes used by its enemies.

      Messages scrambled using the Enigma machine were cracked by devices largely designed by maths genius Alan Turing. … Colossus was kept secret for decades after the war and it is only recently that a full picture of its influence and engineering brilliance has become apparent.

      But it was not the only code-cracking computer that Britain made. Steadily more details are emerging of the secret machines that came after Colossus and surpassed its ability to unscramble messages.

      A total of 10 Colossi were made during WW2 and once hostilities ceased eight of them were broken up and the plans for them destroyed. Two were kept and were used to help Britain’s GCHQ keep cracking codes…

      … the two Colossi, dubbed “Red” and “Blue”, were extensively modified after 1945 to make them less prone to breaking down and to make it easier to input data…

      … But GCHQ’s work on special-purpose machines did not stop with Colossus, said Mr Cane. Between the end of WW2 and the early 1960s engineers at GCHQ finished work on machines called Aquarius and Robinson whose development had started in the huts at Bletchley. They also brought into being others called Colorob, Dragon, Johnson and Oedipus…

      All very secretly pioneering to continue a secret war leading right through to the recent revelations by Edward Snowden

  • Martin L

    Is this where one notably famous person from Bletchley Park is given a whole new spin? 😉

    Pet Shop Boys premiere Alan Turing work at BBC Proms

    An orchestral work by the Pet Shop Boys about the life of wartime codebreaker Alan Turing is to have its world premiere at this year’s BBC Proms…

    He worked at Bletchley Park during World War 2, and his work helped accelerate Allied efforts to read German naval messages enciphered with the Enigma machine.

    “It is an honour for us to be invited to present some new music at the Proms and to celebrate Alan Turing 60 years after his death,” Pet Shop Boys duo Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe said in a statement.

    Proms director and BBC Radio 3 controller Roger Wright said the 40-minute work would have a key part for a narrator/actor and would tell the Turing story “but not in a strictly narrative way”. …

  • Martin L

    Time rambles on in a colossal way 😛

    Museum reunion for Colossus computer veterans

    The largest gathering of veterans who operated the Colossus code-cracking computer in World War Two has been held at Bletchley Park.

    The operators met at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) which has a replica of the pioneering machine. It was held after publicity around Colossus’s 70th anniversary led many former operators to contact the museum. It has also revealed plans to create a virtual copy of the huts in which 11 Colossi were sited in wartime…

    … TNMOC trustee Tim Reynolds said the meeting was held in September to mark another 70th anniversary associated with Colossus – the opening of the first hut, called Block H, built to house the machines.

    “It was the world’s first data centre,” he said.

    At the reunion, TNMOC staff also talked about work it had done to create a virtual version of the two buildings that housed the Colossi – Block H and F – to give people a better idea of what it was like to be an operator during wartime.

    Staff and volunteers from TNMOC have used a free tool called OpenSim to build a rough prototype that lets people take a virtual stroll through the huts…

    Only thing is: How long before the dust settles around the now “next door” to TNMOC? 😐

    Who’s on for a Christmas visit?… 🙂

  • Martin L

    TNMOC stay positively in the news (whilst the ‘separated’ Bletchley Park stay in the shadows?):

    Official: Turing’s Bombe BETTER than a Concorde plane

    At least according to Blighty’s mechanical engineers

    Alan Turing’s code-breaking Bombe machine has been voted engineers’ favourite artefact, beating out other engineering triumphs such as the Concorde plane and HMS Belfast.

    The Institution of Mechanical Engineers voted Turing’s World War II innovation as their favourite recipient of the Engineering Heritage Award…

    … The Bombe machine, the cryptanalytical machine designed by Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman during WWII to help crack the settings of Germany’s Enigma enciphering machine, won 19 per cent of the vote, closely followed by the Concorde, which was the favourite with 17 per cent of engineers…

    … “These machines, which each weighed about a ton, illustrate the genius of Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman, but also the vision and ingenuity of the engineer Harold Keen, who made these concepts a reality. “The award was presented to the replica Bombe in 2009 on behalf of Turing, Welchman and Keen and also in recognition of the fantastic work of enthusiasts who rebuilt the Bombe with such care and passion.”…

    Couldn’t agree more!

  • Martin L

    Going vintage and retro in a slightly different and more recent world than the war compute engines at TNMOC, and more artistically arranged than the games room they have there… We now have our very own here in Nottingham:

    Nottingham to open ‘cultural’ centre for videogames

    A new centre dedicated to the heritage and culture of gaming in the UK is to open its doors next year.

    The £2.5m National Videogame Arcade will open to the public in Nottingham in March and will include an exhibition of old consoles and controllers.

    The centre, set over five floors, will include galleries with themed and interactive exhibitions and a games-making education area. The museum’s developer GameCity said it would celebrate gaming history.

    Director Iain Simons said: “We believe that games should be played by everyone, and that games should be made by everyone.”…

    Game on! 🙂

  • Martin L

    TNMOC rebuild yet another historic computing gem that is still attracting original parts from far flung places years later:

    Lost chunk of pioneering Edsac computer found

    An original part of one of the UK’s pioneering computers has been found in the US.

    The part is a significant chunk of Edsac – a machine built at Cambridge in the late 1940s to serve scientists at the university. It came to light because of publicity surrounding an effort to rebuild the computer. The part has now been donated to the rebuild project and will be incorporated into the finished machine.

    Edsac, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator, ran its first programs in May 1949 and through its working life aided many scientists…

     

    And here’s the earlier teasers to see what latest vintage has been recrafted to return to electronic life:

    Museum switches on historic computer

    A project to recreate one of Britain’s pioneering computers has reached a key milestone.

    The first recreated parts of the re-built Edsac machine have been switched on at The National Museum of Computing. The Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator first ran in 1949 and was created to serve scientists at Cambridge University…

     

    UK computing museum starts reboot of 65-year-old EDSAC

    … As The Reg has previously detailed, EDSAC has a distinguished place in computing history because its design influenced that of LEO, a British business computing effort that was probably superior to IBM’s S/360.

    EDSAC’s initial tasks were assisting scientists, a role it fulfilled well enough that the Museum says it assisted in the winning of at least one Nobel Prize.

    The machine was, of course, laughable by today’s standards. EDSAC ran at 500kHz, could process 650 instructions a second and boasted two whole kilobytes of RAM. Mercury delay lines served as memory…

     

    Hermann Hauser opens EDSAC display at National Museum of Computing

    Hermann Hauser has officially opened the EDSAC display at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park.

    As key parts of the reconstruction of one the most influential computers ever built were commissioned, the sights, sounds, heat and sheer size of computing in the late 1940s were brought to life. …

    EDSAC, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator, was originally built at Cambridge University immediately after the Second World War by a team led by Sir Maurice Wilkes. It was the first practical general-purpose computer and marked the beginning of computer programming as a distinct profession…

    … Doron Swade, co-founder of the Computer Conservation Society and a hands-on pioneer of computer restoration, said: “This is truly a remarkable project that brings history to life for its participants and for the viewing public. EDSAC provided, for the first time, reliable computing capability for scientists…

     

    Indeed historic stuff!

    Next visit? 😉

  • Martin L

    Separately, Bletchley Park and the machines at TNMOC shine in the news and also on our old paper mail:

    The Bletchley Girls and The Debs of Bletchley Park – review

    The dashed hopes and the (sometimes) awful men … an insight into the lives and loves of the female codebreakers – and those with less glamorous jobs

    Sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one imagines,” Alan Turing says to Joan Clarke in The Imitation Game. This is the appeal of the Bletchley Park war. It’s a particularly British story, whose eccentric heroes are more likely to be found solving crossword puzzles than flying aeroplanes…

    … Although there were just 186 staff at Bletchley in August 1939, by 1942 there were 1,600 and by the end of 1944 this had risen to 8,743. Three-quarters of them were women, made available by the introduction of female conscription in 1941. Their stories have been neglected, largely because the exploits of the leading Bletchley code-breakers are more exciting. The women who have found their way into the histories have tended to be the handful of female cryptanalysts. Joan Clarke has now been given spirited if pouting form by Keira Knightley.

    Two books have appeared to remedy this situation…

     

    Royal Mail’s Colossus move gets ex-WREN’s stamp of approval

    Once muzzled by officialdom, former operators of Colossus have reacted well to a Royal Mail stamp marking the achievements of the computing beast and its designer, Tommy Flowers.

    The Colossus stamp is part of eight in the Royal Mail’s series, called Inventive Britain.

    The world’s first electronic, programmable computer, Colossus was dedicated to a single task…

    … At the National Museum of Computing (TNMOC), home of today’s Colossus rebuild, those women are now thrilled. At the time, Bletchley was smothered by the Official Secrets Act, and people weren’t allowed to tell each other about their work, let alone the outside world…

     

    Turing family hand in petition at Downing Street

    The family of Bletchley Park codebreaker Alan Turing – who was played on the big screen by Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game – have been at Downing Street today to demand the Government pardons 49,000 other men persecuted for their homosexuality…

     

    Times change and hopefully we crack on to better ways…

  • Martin L

    Beyond Bletchley

    After the war was done, and the Bletchley huts were emptied, the cogs of cryptography continued to turn under the shroud of Cold War secrecy:

    How NSA and GCHQ spied on the Cold War world

    … The story of the German Enigma machine is well-known – a device built to provide secure communications but which British code-breakers managed to crack at Bletchley Park.

    But there is another story – not fully told until now – about what came after.

    The demand for machines like Enigma grew after the end of the World War Two. And one private company led the way in meeting that demand…

    … it seems the detailed knowledge of the machines and their operations may have allowed code-breakers to cut the time needed to decrypt messages from the impossible to the possible.

    The relationship also involved not selling machines such as the CX-52, a more advanced version of the C-52 – to certain countries. “The reason that CX-52 is so terrifying is because it can be customised,” says Prof Richard Aldrich, of the University of Warwick. “So it’s a bit like defeating Enigma and then moving to the next country and then you’ve got to defeat Enigma again and again and again.”

    Some countries – including Egypt and India – were not told of the more advanced models and so bought those easier for the US and UK to break…

    And what now in our ever more electronic highly connected age?…

  • Martin L

    There’s still secrets to be found and told:

    €100 ‘typewriter’ turns out to be €45,000 Enigma machine

    1941 German army crypto machine found in Romanian flea market

    … Enigma machines were sent to Romania as a German ally, until it switched sides to the Allies in 1944, so Reuters speculates that there may be still others undiscovered in the country.

    In Blighty, Enigma is forever bound with the names of Alan Turing and Bletchley Park, Turing as the best-known boffin of the crypto-cracking farm to help win World War 2 (and incidentally helping to kick-start the computing age)…

     

    Still something to watch out for…

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