Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bletchley Park

Thermionic Valves, Bletchley Park National Museum of Computing
Bletchley Park was the site of the infamous Government Code and Cypher School, responsible for decoding German messages during WWII. Today, Bletchley Park is dedicated to memorializing and celebrating the accomplishments of the men and women who aided the war effort as well as the machines which made it all possible. 

The National Museum of Computing hosts historical computers, such as the Colossus and bombe machines which were integral in cracking the German Lorenz and Enigma messages. Both machines on display are in working order, and both are remakes, the originals having been dismantled after the war.
The Mansion, Bletchley Park

Aside from the machines dedicated to the war effort, the entire history of computing is represented, including the oldest continuously working computer, WITCH (Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell). This is a dekatron computer, able to make accurate calculations, after programming, of course. Many of the more recent machines are foreign and a bit comical to the modern computer user. Among them, massive information storage disks which fit into washing machine style computers and hold what we might consider a pitifully small amount of information by today's standards. Technologies from punch cards and valves to modern flight traffic control modules span the museum, including obscure PCs and forgotten Apple products. It was the history of computing like I've never seen it, and our guide was an extremely knowledgeable tech enthusiast himself.

The grounds at Bletchley Park are gorgeous and somewhat haunting. Hidden speakers in hedges and bike stands pipe in the sounds of activity, as Bletchley would have sounded at the height of the war. Manicured lawns, huts, and the Mansion are bursting with history and the eerie memory of the war, or perhaps our tour guide was simply that good. Either way, Bletchley has a fascinating history which   was kept quiet for some time, and it was only in the 90s that the Park opened for visitors. The work done at Bletchley, and those responsible for the efforts made there are an integral part of our history. This was one of my personal favorite sites, not only for its beauty, but for its aura of history and invention in the face of a war.

Check out Bletchley Park online!

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