All Systems Go

Phoenix, our ‘bombe’, ready to go

I felt compelled to write up my experiences of last Saturday at Bletchley Park. Due to some family matters (mainly involving my Dad and some uncooperative stairs) I haven’t been able to do a full day for over a month. You start to pine. Luckily, all the ducks got in line nicely and normal service was resumed at the weekend.

What a beautiful day it was. I think we (the volunteers) were all taken aback by the number of visitors. Considering it was mid-March the place was packed! Hopefully, a lot of that is to do with the great publicity BP had over the previous week and a sign of things to come.

Firstly, our brand-new Alan Turing exhibition, commemorating his centenary,  was formally opened by James May. This also coincided with a viewing of the exhibition by The Art Fund Prize (see previous post). As well as the now infamous Turing Papers, saved by a snowball campaign started by a desolate tweet, we are also displaying some incredibly rare personal effects of Turing’s, including his watch and the lovely Porgy, a jointed teddy bear bought by Turing as something on which to to practice his lectures. The exhibition is open every day to the public at no additional charge.

Good friend to the park @Documentally caught up with James during the proceedings for a chat.

I paid a rare weekday visit the next day, meeting some Internet rock stars who were offering their help and advice to bring the Bletchley Park app into reality. Can’t say too much other than I’m really excited and am going to be very busy.

After weeks of false starts I finally got to have a look at the BBC Domesday Reloaded table at The National Museum of Computing. This is a large touch-screen affair that allows to to ‘drill down’ to a large collection of maps, photos, videos and information on the UK. An update to the original BBC Micro project in the 1980s, it’s incredibly impressive and a wonderful gift to the museum from the BBC.

Best of all, though, was finally seeing the new Colossus gallery. Previously, visiting Colossus was a cramped affair with little visibility. However, it sits on the original site of Colossus number nine and it was rightly decided to keep it there. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard it had reopened to the public and I was amazed. Colossus now enjoys an environment deserving of it’s importance. For the first time ever, the public can walk a complete circle around the machine, it’s rear array of valves viewable for the very first time. A much improved space means no more cramped surroundings for our visitors. The electrical work is not quite complete yet so although she’s open to the public, Colossus is having a well earned break from operations. It’s expected to have her back up and code breaking by April.

Our next event is the Easter Eggstravagansa on 5th April followed by my favourite, the Forties Family Festival on 26th and 27th May.

 

PJ