Behind-the-scenes @ Bletchley Park

Saturday 23rd April 2016 @ 11:30

John Sanderson, Friends Committee Member and past President of the Royal College of Science Association

Guided tour to Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing housing the largest collection of historic computers in Europe. Witness the reconstruction of EDSAC – the first really useful programmable computer.

Spend a fascinating day enthralled by guided tours of Bletchley Park and the adjacent National Museum of Computing followed by a unique Behind-the-Scenes presentation by John Sanderson and other members of the team involved in the EDSAC Replica Project.

The day’s itinerary

Attendees can travel by train direct from Euston Station to Bletchley Railway Station, the journey takes about 45 minutes. There is then a walk of about 5 minutes to Bletchley Park itself. Train departure times will be suggested nearer the date so that members can travel as a group.

11.30AM  - arrival and introduction to Bletchley Park through their newly-launched multimedia guide, an informative and entertaining iPod Touch based aide, narrated by historian Jonathan Foyle and includes re-enactments and interviews with veterans.

12 NOON - a one hour, outdoor, walking tour with volunteer guides who take you on a walk through history with so many fascinating stories to tell.

1.00PM – Time allocated for lunch and refreshments (these are to be paid for separately)
Free time to explore the site at your own pace.

2.15PM – The group makes its way to the National Museum of Computing, three minutes away! At 2.30PM there is a pre-booked guided 30 minutes tour of the Colossus galleries. There is then free time to explore the rest of the museum. There are plenty of volunteers to talk to.

3.30PM - A unique Behind-the-Scenes presentation by John Sanderson and other members of the team involved in the EDSAC Replica Project.
The EDSAC Replica Project aims to reconstruct one of the most important early British digital computers, It is generally accepted that the EDSAC was the first practical general purpose stored program electronic computer.
Designed in 1947 by a team lead by Maurice Wilkes, the original EDSAC computer operated for almost 10 years, starting from its first successful program run on 6th May 1949, at the Cambridge University Mathematical Laboratory.

The goal of the project is to build an authentic working replica of the EDSAC computer and to run a program on it as was done when the original machine was demonstrated in May 1949.

4.30PM - Event end.

The event fee includes all admission costs and guided tours. Members are welcome to bring a guest.

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park, in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, was the central site of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), which, during the Second World War, regularly penetrated the secret communications of the Axis Powers – most importantly the German Enigma and Lorenz ciphers. The official historian of World War II British Intelligence has written that the "Ultra" intelligence produced at Bletchley shortened the war by two to four years, and that without it the outcome of the war would have been uncertain.

Bletchley Park also heralded huge, innovative leaps in technology which launched the information age with the industrialisation of the code breaking processes enabled by machines such as the Turing/Welchman Bombe, and the world’s first programmable computer, Colossus.

The transformation of Bletchley Park, restoring it to its World War Two glory, is now complete. The £8 million, Heritage Lottery Funded restoration project has seen more building work on the site than at any time since 1944, at the peak of war.

The work carried out over the last year allows visitors to experience what it was like for the Codebreakers working at Government Code and Cypher School during WW2. It has turned derelict buildings which were almost lost to history entirely into a fitting, permanent tribute to the thousands of men and women whose hard work, diligence and innovation helped shorten the war and changed the way we all live today.

Codebreaking Huts 3 and 6, where Enigma messages sent by the German Army and Air Force were decrypted, translated and analysed for vital intelligence, have been restored to their wartime condition. They tell the stories of what happened inside them through the use of light-touch interpretation such as sounds, projected images and authentic set dressing.

Block C, where Hollerith punch-card machines carried out rapid analysis of encrypted message systems to assist the Codebreakers, has been returned to its wartime appearance and atmosphere, and is now a vibrant new Visitor Centre with an introductory exhibition, Secrets Revealed - Introducing Bletchley Park, plus shop, cafe and all necessary comforts for Bletchley Park’s hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Exhibitions include The Life and Works of Alan Turing, the only reconstructed Bombe machine and the largest display of Enigma machines on public display in the world.

National Museum of Computing

The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC), located at Bletchley Park, houses the largest collection of functional historic computers in Europe, including a rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer.

TNMOC enables visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of the 1940’s through the mainframes of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980’s. New working exhibits are regularly unveiled and the public can already view a rebuilt and fully operational Colossus, the restored Harwell Dekatron / WITCH computer, an ICL 2966, one of the workhorse mainframes computers of the 1980’s, many of the earliest desktops of the 1980’s and 1990’s, plus the NPL Technology of the Internet Gallery.



Venue: Bletchley Park

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