An Open Letter to Bletchley Park Trust

Dear *****,

This is an open letter to Bletchley Park Trust.

Firstly, can I say that it’s been a pleasure working with you.

I’m writing to formally stand down as a volunteer at Bletchley Park. For those who may be interested, I would like to cite the following reasons:

Not only has there been an intolerable lack of respect for those who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War but also:

- Changes to the tour that replace true knowledge of Bletchley Park’s history with a ‘look around the buildings’.

- Lack of effort by BPT to negotiate with TNMoC over joint ticketing.

- Focus on ‘interpretation’ rather than interactivity.

- The future of the Park as a museum and not a place of research and discovery.

- Lack of effort to make displays accessible to the lesser-abled.

- The treatment of volunteers by BPT.

- The hideous gates that create the ‘payzone’.

Although there have been many disagreements over the last few weeks between BPT and TNMoC, resulting in poor publicity for both parties, the fact remains that the Park is now carved into two sections in a way that has no relevance to its history. I simply do not care who decided the gates should be erected, only that they exist and are a scar on this most important place.

The final straw has come in the past 24 hours. Previously, the loss of a significant member of the Bletchley Park veterans was signalled to all volunteers at least by email. I don’t need to tell you that the volunteers are a passionate group who care very deeply for those that came before them. In previous months and years we have been informed of the passing of those who gave so much and saved so many: Mavis Batey; Oliver Lawn; John Herivel et al. Even Tony Sale’s passing was communicated to BPT volunteers in good time.

Over the past few months, indeed years, the communication between the volunteers and BPT has all but collapsed. The Friday updates are welcome, but the sterilisation of all else is unbearable. Yesterday, I was informed by BBC News of the passing of Captain Jerry Roberts MBE. This was quickly followed up by an email from TNMoC to their mailing list and a post on their web site. Dr Sue Black, Dr Brian Cox and several others spread the news via Twitter and Facebook. As the day progressed social media sites were filled with tributes to this great man.

As of now, 20:40 Friday 28th March 2014, I, as a volunteer, have received no formal notification of his passing from BPT. Also, I note that the official Bletchley Park website has no information on this sad event; the homepage is dominated by an advertisement for a fictitious ITV drama (and nothing under the ‘News’ section).

I am incredulous at the apathy of BPT towards the passing of one of Bletchley Park’s greats, and towards the feelings of those who admired him and work to tell his story.

Worst of all, the inaction by BPT management is shockingly disrespectful to one of the great Bletchley Park codebreakers. Jerry Roberts was one of the last of the Testery, the group of people whose decrypts determined the date of D-Day; they played a significant part in saving thousands of lives.

Not a word has been spoken. No ‘thank you’. No acknowledgement.

Even if you have something planned, you owed it to Jerry’s wife, Mei, to note his passing in good time. You have failed.

I am deeply saddened by your actions and can longer be a volunteer of Bletchley Park Trust in good conscience.

With regret,

PJ Evans

(Edited 29th March 14:25. It’s heartening to report that at least two further members of the Testery are still with us)

A (Very) Little Bit of TV

Lets face it, today’s tellys are huge. As we all crave simpler times, away from the constant noise of social media and email, why not downsize to something a little more, err, personal?

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This is Sinclair Microvision MTV1B – Clive Sinclair’s second attempt at a portable television. Released in 1978, it was the smallest television in the world. A teeny-tiny 2″ CRT powered by 4 x AA (or a 9V) with contrast ratios that could be measured in single figures.

This one is in lovely condition and fully working. The seller had used it to keep him company on fishing trips right up the analogue switch-off. Although the aerial is now useless, it does have an external hook-up so I could get the Speccy connected. Surprisingly I was able to get though a level or two of Manic Miner quite happily.

2001: A Space Odyssey Original Soundtrack

I don’t normally post my vinyl hauls but this one is very special. Just beautiful.

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Sinclair Day at The Centre for Computing History

Not being able to resist a browse of the Sinclair goodness at Cambridge’s own Centre for Computing History, I popped along for their first Sinclair Weekend where all the rare stuff came out to play. Lots to see and do (it’s on tomorrow as well) but it was a treat to bump into these folks:

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Yes, that’s CHRIS CURRY and SIR CLIVE SINCLAIR. Starstruck doesn’t cover it.

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This? Oh that’s little old me many years ago. One of my articles for Crash that I haven’t seen in a long, long time.

Well done to Jason and his team for a brilliant exhibition. It’s fantastic when a museum operates a ‘PLEASE TOUCH’ policy.

http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/

3D-Printed Tooth

I’ve often wondered when my first ‘real life’ 3D printing experience would come. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few printers in action, indeed there’s one at The National Museum of Computing,  but these have all worked as demonstrations of the technology, printing out head scans, chess pieces and the like. When would 3D printing actually have an impact on my life?

The answer came sooner than expected.

I’ve had a dead tooth to the right of my front teeth for a few years now. On the last inspection the Dentist declared it hazardous as an infection had taken root in the, err, root. It had to go. Normally that would be that but as it would leave me with a rather gappy smile, he recommended a bridge, a false tooth the connects to a metal post in the vacated socket and also surrounds the adjacent tooth, using it as an anchor. This means no plate is required and it can be treated as the real thing. Normal procedure? Extract the tooth, take a mould, send it off the a lab where a replica is cast and set before being sent back and fitted. The process takes about two weeks.

However, just a few weeks ago, my dentist took delivery of a CEREC ceramic 3D printer and scanning software. Using a light probe he was able to scan inside my mouth before and after extraction to create a 3D on-screen model in which he created a new tooth based o the scan of the now extracted offender. After some design flourishes (he actually improved the shape!) the bridge was ready to print.

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The printer itself was sat next to me in the room and I was allowed to set it up and switch it on. Over the course of about 30 minutes, two water-cooled burrs beavered away at a ceramic block, carving my bridge. Once complete, the dentist snapped off the bridge and set about modifying it to an exact fit. After about 20 minutes of fine-tuning it was glued into place and my smile was preserved.

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I was naturally feeling a little apprehensive about the first look in the  mirror but not to worry. I couldn’t visually tell the difference between the old one and this new upstart. It even feels identical to the tongue. Bridges have to be replaced after the first six months as the socket changes shape as it heals. This is great news, I get to see it made all over again!

If you want to visit the dentist of the future ask if they have a CEREC machine or visit my guys; The Hub Dental Practice in Milton Keynes.

Compile ZX Basic on a PC

Write ZX Spectrum code in any text editor then use this Python script to produce a TZX file. Well there goes my morning…

http://www.boriel.com/en/software/the-zx-basic-compiler/

 

The ZX81 Mystery Board

Well, my post on the ultimate pimped-out ZX81 drew a lot of attention; mostly centred around the mystery expansion board that was included in the myriad of components of which this behemoth was comprised. A closer picture shows it to be some kind of EPROM from  ’Orme Electronics’.

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But what does it do? Well, the best clues can be found from the wonderful ZX81 Stuff resource. Sadly, I can’t find any photographs to confirm but it looks to me to be the first item in their Orme list. It can’t be an EPROM programmer as the chip is soldered in and there would be no practical way of removing it if it wasn’t. Without instructions I’m still a bit lost but I’m going with an EPROM programmed with Breakout, Life and a Toolkit of some description.

 

Pimp My ZX81

I’ve been systematically going through The National Museum of Computing‘s collection of Sinclair equipment. It’s taken a good few months and finally I’m at the point of going through those items that, at the time, where placed in the WTF? pile. The latest candidate to come under scrutiny I have affectionally called Bluto.

Bluto 1

Pretty, huh? Yes, it’s an extremely pimped-out ZX81. I don’t have a record of the donor and have so far failed to identify the kit used to expand this humble little ‘pooter into the 80s microcomputer equivalent of an Apache gunship. Let’s have a look inside:

Bluto 2a

Wow. So, we have:

  • A keyboard which seems to be of DK’Tronics origin
  • A ZX Printer
  • The PSU
  • The mother of all cooling fans
  • An expansion board for the Z80 bus (although I have no idea how you would make use of it with the cover on)
  • A 16K RAM Pack
  • Some kind of expansion board of whose purpose I have no idea
  • Loadsa wires

Having established that nothing was going to explode upon power-up (being as sure as you can ever be with these things), I plugged it in and fiddled with the power switches. One slight annoyance with testing ZX81s is their complete silence. It’s always going to involve some mucking about to establish whether they are getting power or not (tip: multimeters help). Anyway, I tuned my old CRT tele in and got this:

Bluto 2

Ah.

So, is the ZX81 itself borked or, as is often the case, some other peripheral interfering with things? Having removed the motherboard (which turned out to be a very simple job despite the hundreds of screws holding this thing together), I quickly established it was indeed in a state of borkdom. Luckily, I had a replacement board ready and waiting and so swapped them over.

Bluto 3

After a lot of cleaning, especially of the peripheral connectors, and a little gentle pushing and pulling, Bluto sprang to life once more.

Bluto 4

A real surprise was the ZX Printer, which happily sparked away onto its thermal paper.

Bluto 5

But seriously, who used such a thing? Yes you could drop it off a cliff without consequence but it looks like someone had a serious purpose for it and can’t image using Bluto for anything more than a few minutes. The fan is unbearably loud (although thankfully optional via its own switch) and the key-response time slower than an underachieving sloth. Still, maybe it go on display one day as it’s got a better chance against the regular museum key-bashing than an original membrane keyboard.

The only thing that bugs me is that expansion card. What does it do? Any ideas?

 

Kids at GOSH down to 2 DS Games – Can you help?

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Hi all, I’ve been contacted by a friend whose sister is a nurse at Great Ormand Street Children’s Hospital. Their ward has a DS and a 3DS with a grand total of three carts, one for the DS and two for the 3DS.

Except the DS game has been lost, leaving just two to play with.

My friend was wondering if anyone out there had any old games they didn’t want anyone (or collectors with duplicates) who may like to donate them to some kids who may well to be spending Christmas in hospital this year. Maybe a round or two of Mario Cart will take their mind off their problems for a bit.

To ensure any donations are handled correctly, I’ve been ask to post a link to the official page for donations (attached below). The ward in question is ‘Dinosaur Ward’.

So, I’m off to have a dig through some old games. If you could do the same I’m sure you’ll be bringing a smile to somebody’s face.

If you could take the time to share this with anyone you think may be able to help, that would be brilliant.

All the best,

PJ

http://www.gosh.org/gen/donate/gifts-in-kind/

 

Image from nerdlikeyou.com

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