Geek Heaven

I didn't appreciate just how geeky I was until last Wednesday - now I know what everyone else knows!

There is an extra-curricular project, called EPiCS, being run by one of the lecturers at the Uni.  Unfortunately, despite wanting to sign up for it, I was worried about the time it would take up when there is so much to do study-wise.

However, a few weeks ago, the tutor announced a trip to The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, the same place where the Enigma machine was decoded in the Second World War.  For the discount price of £5, forty students had the opportunity to see Colossus, the Harwell Decatron Computer (also known as WITCH) and a range of machines from history that made me realise just how much I have seen things change: I am not old ... I've just seen a lot!  :-)

The trip was originally to be booked for the second year students but they wanted to see if some of us first years wanted to go: needless to say, the little group I'm part of were amongst the first to book their tickets!!!

Last Wednesday was the day of the trip and I don't mind admitting I was rather excited, which is something of a rarity lately.

After a little intro, the first visit was to the Colossus, a machine that was still picking up real signals from Germany, albeit containing weather data as opposed to military commands! 

Tony Sale was our guide for this part of the visit, and he really kicked it off with his passion and good humour: if I could choose another grandfather, Tony would be the man.  The one thing I remember him saying was as he handed out little strips of paper with a coded message punched into it using the 5-bit Baudot code, suggesting that we go away and use his website to decode the message ... oh, and it doesn't say "p*** off"!

This was followed by a guided tour of the museum, seeing everything from early machines that used punch-cards for instructions, through the first electronic computers and up to a more recent history, which is already looking out-of-date.  I was like a kid in a toy shop and didn't know where to go next, though that was quickly sorted after lunch when one of the volunteers offered to take us to the National Codes Centre where we could see the Enigma and the Turing Bombe.

Although I only had my almost trusty phone with me, I managed to take a few photos :-)

The Enigma!

Turing Bombe

Excellent statue of Alan Turing with the Enigma machine
Another view of the Alan Turing statue

Although I didn't get to see everything that was available at Bletchley Park, I can wholeheartedly recommend it as a day out - and you don't have to be a techie or a geek to enjoy it, either.  As part of our history it is both an eye-opener and - I hate to admit this - the start of a walk down memory lane!!!


Anonymous said…
I'm so jealous.

I also think, considering it's "Gay Icons" week in Sheffield starting next week that Alan Turing should have been included.
OddThomas said…
Maybe it just needs someone to point out that they've missed someone - often the people that organise these things have a pretty limited knowledge!!

There's a task for you then :-)

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