A Walk Through Bletchley Park & The National Museum of Computing



Bletchley Park is located in south-central England just a bit northwest of London perhaps an hour's drive in the community of Milton Keynes the campus of the museum is surrounded by the housing neighborhood and it's a sizeable campus with many of the old huts and the old mansion in its grounds this is a 3d map of the Bletchley Park estate and grounds to the left is the lake some wooded area and the Bletchley Park mansion and then to the right and center are all the so called Hut's which are the buildings that remain where the code-breaking effort took place the mansion was used somewhat as a headquarters an office for the top people running the operation but head codebreakers such as Alan Turing and Gordon welchman and others had their offices in the huts themselves these days due to popular media movies books and so on everybody seems to be aware of the enigma cipher that was used during world war ii and its association with alan turing and others but of course there were other ciphers and use such as the Lorenz and others and those were also broken and dealt with at Bletchley Park this is a photo of one of the three rotor enigma machines which is how is that the museum [Applause] [Applause] [Applause] here's an old guard gatehouse and a typical Hut and some of the surrounding buildings that were probably from the air of the mansion more Hut's even more Hut's in a different style and there's a model of a submarine and this is walking up from the main campus up past some other huts these ones of brick heading up towards the national computing History Museum or National Museum of computing as it's called this is one of the huts used by the computing Museum and here's the parking area just outside the entrance but you're not supposed to park there you're supposed to park in the main lot and here's the main entrance you the first gallery in the museum is the small systems and personal computers museum here's a pdp-8 and then a bunch of the early ones such as the Altair the Commodore pet the Apple and so on about two years before this visit to the museum I had donated a reproduction of a cosmic elf computer that I built I have a separate video on YouTube about building this computer and I also demonstrate it but I was pretty pleased and gratified to see that they had a nice little sign there acknowledging my donation on the left are various Apple and Commodore computers and some other models on the lower shelf and there's a Timex and Claire and there and several other models I'm not actually familiar with here's an early IBM PC they had a nice picture of Hedy Lamarr there and brief mention of her contribution to computing some of the early portable computers there's a SX 64 from Commodore there's you know Osborne and so on some early notebook or laptop computers rather additional luggable z' and portables and then some of the handheld computers of various models Epson this is the sharp model also sold by RadioShack Hewlett Packard and others and some of these are actually glorified PDAs that can be connected to small keyboards and then there are some more personal computers that are used for game playing this is the bomb gallery devoted to the enigma code breaking specifically and it shows lots of different bits of apparatus associated with that and then we eventually get to the bomb itself and some pieces of it and here's the reproduction bomb that they have working in here now the bomb wasn't a computer it was simply a device that crunched through a lot of combinations of codes until things started possibly making sense because the code breaking effort relied on cribs it relied on intuition and mathematical formulas devised by the code breakers and even with that there were still many possibilities to work through and the bomb would work through those that have been whittled down by the other techniques you can get a good view in this gallery of the front and the rear of the bomb and much of its workings I thought one of the major travesties of the otherwise entertaining movie the imitation game was that they seemed to show Alan Turing developing the bomb and only later on getting to something closer to a computer my understanding from my reading of the history is that the bomb was originally a design from polish code breakers before the war and that the design that was popular at Bletchley Park was largely the work of Gordon welchman I don't know if Alan Turing really had that much to do with the design of it but he was certainly critically important in working out the front end code and the use of cribs and so on to whittle down the code possibilities to something that the bomb could then work on did you have to push a button to make that work push it again [Applause] this is the calculator gallery it's actually more in a hallway it shows many different electromechanical electronic and purely mechanical calculating devices through history this machine is called Heath Robinson it was an early effort to use electronics in the breaking of the Lorenz code which was another code or another cipher used by the Germans and the war besides the Enigma it was called Heath Robinson by the wrens who operated it because it resembled in their minds the outrageously complicated machines drawn by cartoonist Heath Robinson this is the slide-rule gallery located in hallway between the Heath Robinson gallery and the Colossus gallery this is the Colossus gallery where the museum has painstakingly recreated a colossus model – computer which is regarded as the world's first programmable electronic digital computer it was used to break the Lorenz code it was not apparently used in the Enigma it was too late for that but it's still a remarkable machine a lot of vacuum tubes and some electromechanical parts as well [Applause] this object is a so-called a drum store it's a form of magnetic drum that was used by early computers to store programs and data and it was pioneered in the United Kingdom by Andrew Booth in 1946 a metal cylinder is typically coated with some sort of magnetic oxide much as would be used on magnetic tape and at least one pickup head is positioned very close to the spinning cylinder the same pickup head can read and write data to the drum most drum Emory's had fixed heads the one had per track although some were built with heads that could move from track to track most early British computers used drum memory a typical drum memory might have sixteen heads with sixteen blocks for a total capacity of around 82 kilobytes difficulty in making and maintaining magnetic drum memories and their limited capacity meant that they were soon replaced by moving head magnetic disk drives this is the EDSAC or electronic delay storage automatic calculator a very early stored program computer this machine is the wolverhampton instrument for teaching computing from Harwell otherwise known as the which WI T CH or as the Harwell decadron computer named after the decadron tubes which is a type of counting vacuum tube this machine dates from the 1950s and it was designed and used to teach students about computing it was actually used until around 1973 one of his decommissioned it was subsequently restored by this museum and is now considered to be the world's oldest working digital computer see that time yeah Oh the witch as displayed is always running this squares program as listed on this monitor the museum has a couple other galleries depicting various vintages of old computers much newer than the rest of the the big computers but still relatively vintage by today's standards I didn't take much video or pictures of this area because the museum was closing soon and I was simply running out of time you

9 Comments

  1. b bock said:

    Friend, sure wished you were my next door neighbor. Also, all your videos are top notch, but your AMTRAC videos are my favorite and thanks for all the pleasure you have given me…be well friend.

    June 29, 2019
    Reply
  2. Jack Wright said:

    Thank you for an interesting video Paul I missed that area in March on a visit to BP
    A little colder than your visit
    This guy I think explains things
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2NWPG2gB_A

    June 29, 2019
    Reply
  3. Dan Markis said:

    This is great BUT I need more of your railroad travel videos. I really like them…

    June 29, 2019
    Reply
  4. Edward Smith said:

    Fascinating as I worked for a while on an IBM 360 & used punch cards – I have one. I've used desktop programs from IBM DOS through to Windows XP them Apple OS from 9.2.2 to the most current

    June 29, 2019
    Reply
  5. 782 gear said:

    Thank You for the wonderful tour of this museum, and also for your contribution to it awesome .

    June 29, 2019
    Reply
  6. Hoser Man said:

    with all those vacuum tubes operating, how hot was it in the building space?

    June 29, 2019
    Reply
  7. Leland Rogers said:

    So Heath Robinson is the British version of Rube Goldberg.

    June 29, 2019
    Reply
  8. Jurgen Pitaske said:

    Thank you very much forsharing. I had assumed a good old MicroTutor would be exhibited there as well …

    June 29, 2019
    Reply
  9. Craig Ledbetter said:

    Very nicely done! I did not know of this museum. I must go one day. I live in Ireland, and love the COSMAC architecture! Built several 1802/06 hobby systems. Thanks for the video!

    June 29, 2019
    Reply

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