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back to article Bletchley Park spat 'halts work on rare German cipher machine'

An engineer has claimed the war between the Bletchley Park Trust and the National Museum of Computing has prevented him from repairing one of the few WWII German cipher machines that remain in working order. On GreenKeys, a mailing list dedicated to the discussion of older radio teletype (RTTY) gear, engineer Craig Sawyers …

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Anonymous Coward

Confusing

I visited once and found the split between exhibits a bit confusing. It seemed like the fee for "Bletchley Park" consisted of being able to walk around the grounds, and see some stables and codebreaking huts, but all of the interesting machines (including the restored encryption/decryption machines) were in the NMC instead. Pretty odd, given 99% of the people going will want to see the machines, not the grounds...

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Re: Confusing

>Pretty odd, given 99% of the people going will want to see the machines, not the grounds...

Not really, UK tourism PLC is in the business of preserving buildings and gardens not the falling down huts with a bunch of geek stuff in it.

I bet the people working in them don't even have any official qualifications in tourism interactivity studies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Confusing

Yes my experience too. Bletchly Park itself has a few Enigma bits and bobs, but all the interesting stuff is at the NMC, including of course Colossus and the working Harwell WITCH computer. Bletchley Park is mainly a bunch of static displays and things in cases - nothing much actually working - you could get as much information/benefit from Wikipedia. The nice thing about the NMC is that things work (and it's a lot cheaper to visit)

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Re: Confusing

You knew it was doomed when they got the lottery grant to repair the house - no mention of computers

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Re: Confusing

Precisely.

I live in NZ and have never been to Blighty. If I go, then going to Bletchley is an absolute must on my itinery.

However, like most, the only motivation to go to Bletchley would be to see the computers. I can see stables, swans and gift shops with marmalade anywhere - even in NZ.

It would be sad though if the NMC was to move since the setting is part of the story. Still, if it was a choice between seeing the NMC or seeing the estate, the computers would win.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Confusing

> official qualifications in tourism interactivity studies.

If only

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Re: Confusing

But one of the board members runs an amusement park! (?!?!?) Surely he knows EVERYTHING about taking money from the public...

http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/content/about/BPTrust/DuncanPhillips.rhtm

And the rest are either bankers or lawyers - trustworthy and well trained to look after public assets.

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Alert

Something .. something ... productivity

What is it about the Human relationship with computers ?

They are by design, meant to enhance our lives and make things quicker and somehow less beurocratic ..

and yet, at every stage all they manage to do is cause grief and frustration ....

plot twist : or is it human error that foils the robots perfect planning ?

you be the judge

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Linux

Re: Something .. something ... productivity

I recall Isaac Asimov having something to say on the subject! :)

(Tux--closer to the future of automation that Asimov predicted than dead foster parents)

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"beurocratic"

What is it about the Human relationship with computers ?

They are by design, meant to enhance our lives and make things quicker and somehow less beurocratic

I hear some computers even include spell-checkers.

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Anonymous Coward

Museum of bolted stable doors

"given 99% of the people going will want to see the machines"

This should be a wake-up call for Bletchley Park - if they carry on like this, and fence-off their potential visitors, they will find they are left with the 1% who prefer to look round their bolted stable doors rather than historic computing and crypto devices. Idiots.

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Re: Museum of bolted stable doors

What makes you think they want people to visit? They have just been given a load of cash from the lottery fund so why should they care about gate recipts. All they need is to do is accept their inflated salaries while it lasts and hope for some bogus awards for their 'world class attraction' to enhance their individual CV's before they move on.

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Re: Museum of bolted stable doors

What happens if BPT fails? Do some people make some money from selling the prime development land on which it sits, by any chance?

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Anonymous Coward

"given 99% of the people going will want to see the machines"

(sadly) I suspect that the majority of people visiting will be happy with a some static displays etc so long as there's a good cafe and gift shop. Things have been going this way for years .... remember when the V&A had an advertising campaign along the lines of "Come to the great restaurant and there's a museum as well if you want"

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"An ace caff with quite a nice museum attached" http://czechingin.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/saatchi.jpg

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World class

Was this the same spokeswoman who said, after a volunteer was sacked,

"This will create a world class museum and heritage site which is a fitting memorial to the heroic Codebreakers of Bletchley Park making the site much more sustainable and accessible to growing numbers of visitors".

If so, my heart sinks. As soon are someone says "world class", you know you are dealing with idiots who will never listen. They will remake BP according to their own wants and you won't have any say.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Museum of bolted stable doors

@Magnus_Pym - Quite. Their ideological compadres are currently busy trying to screw the South Bank skate park to install another lovely glassy restaurant, quelle surprise, while others are successfully ensuring that diners at the Science Museum aren't burdened by any especially challenging science, but the plethora of eateries are world-class and overpriced.

Lamentably, until we do the B-Ark thing for real they'll exist in every age in some form, from kissing the Tyrant's arse to ensuring 'free' is eradicated from human experience. I think Xavier Bardem's character in "Goya's ghosts" about summed them up.

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Anonymous Coward

Didn't the Milton Keynes Amateur Radio lot used to meet there as well? - And there was a Winston Churchill exhibition - though they both seem to be absent now.

Bletchley Park confused me as well - they want people there (and they do/did/probably still have have some good stuff there to go look at) - but it all kind of feels like it has to be on their terms, which don't always seem to be on the same wavelength as the visitors...

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@AC

And there used to be a model railway group, sited between the Polish memorial, the codebreakers huts and TNMOC (and the Harrier when that was there too).

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Yes it did, I got my Foundation Radio License there a few years ago. talk about mecca for techs. Apparently from other posts, they have moved out as well, and another organisation has moved into their place.

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Churchill Exhibition

I saw the Churchill Exhibition a couple of years ago. It was in a separate building, minded by an older chap in a tweed jacket who showed everybody around then left them to browse. He was passionate about it and his interest was infectious. He was also charming. Had it not been for him, we would not have stayed so long. I spoke to him on the way out, when he happened to mention that as well as minding the displays, he actually owned every item in the place.

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Anonymous Coward

Didn't I see somewhere that there was a FOIA request?

Didn't I see somewhere that there was a FOIA request submitted for details of the lottery funding bid?

Has someone got it? Is blocking access to Colossus etc. strictly in compliance?

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Re: Didn't I see somewhere that there was a FOIA request?

Correct and explained in our reply to BPTs press articles on the matter:

http://www.tnmoc.org/news/news-releases/bigger-picture-fragmenting-heritage-site

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jai
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hundred grand

Can't we set up a kickstarter or something then for TNMOC?

If each El Reg reader gives them a fiver, it might help them out a bit?

Or if they completely blow past the target amount and end up with millions, maybe they can afford to set up their own gate, a bit in front of the Bletchley Park gate, with a tunnel (a la Steve McQueen) bypassing the Trust's entrance and so charge their own admission directly themselves?

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Re: hundred grand

As I understand, you can go direct to TNMOC without paying the Bletchy Park admission.

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Re: hundred grand

We already have ways in which people can support us so I urge people to do so to enable us to continue to fight for BPs future. We want both to succeed but ultimately if BP goes under we want to remain financially stable to carry on the story as best we can.

http://www.tnmoc.org/support/make-donation

And with our £1 million match funding pledge, all donations count double.

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Re: hundred grand

Excellent idea except it would involve giving 100k indirectly to the trust.

persnly i'd rather suck shit through an oily rag than give that bunch of tossers a penny

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One hundred grand?

Sounds to me like you are dyed in the wool bloody sheep staying there @ £75,000 per year rent plus utilities amounting to a total of more than £100,000 per year..

What you should do is use one year's rent to buy 100 acres of farmland adjacent a motorway junction/theme park; get the theme park to cough up the cost of moving you and invite hoards of RPG fans to come and help you rebuild.

I'm sure tea and buns along with the chance of playing Enigma 2 weeks a year would get you a full calendar of paying guests eager to build you a right home from home.

I'm pretty sure we could win this war if you pulled your fingers out.

We almost won the last one.

Just don't let any fat drunken midgets give half of Europe to the Russians this time.

***

"Personally, I'd rather suck shit through an oily rag than give that bunch of tossers a penny"

It isn't the bunch that are tossers, just an evil cadre. What you might do rather than suck shit is hold a beltacnutinnagobweek bus party and go somewhere useful to stage the games.

I get the impression some of the "bunch" might join in.

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You can visit Colossus without paying Bletchley Park a penny

There is no need to pay BP anything to just visit the Computer Museum and this is something that has always been possible, however with BPs continuing efforts to eliminate any mention of TNMOC from its website, guidebook and exhibitions it is no wonder that people are confused.

There are also unconfirmed reports that visitors to BP are being refused access to block H from within the BP 'heritage' area via the new gates (which are open) even though Standon has stated this is not happening. Pretty much as expected given recent events.

Full details on visiting Colossus and Tunny and the many other working and hands-on exhibits we have on our website: www.tnmoc.org/visit

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You can visit Colossus without paying Bletchley Park a penny

Hope to see the NMC in May, all the way from Oz!

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Get kids into computer science

Get kids into computer science?

Nope. Increased footfall in the gift shop required to fund CEO-level salaries.

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Anonymous Coward

It's no wonder we don't have a computer industry (other than ARM) when you see how bad we are at even the simple stuff like organising a museum.

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We, TNMOC, are very good at organising a Museum even with the underhand activities of Standon trying to wipe us off the map - why not come along and find out.

www.tnmoc.org/visit

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Sawyers article factually incorrect in places

From:

http://mailman.qth.net/pipermail/greenkeys/2014-January/029032.html

"Basically the relationship used to be pretty positive - the NMOC paid a rent, the ticket price was split between the Trust and the NMOC and everything worked. "

We have NEVER received a penny from BP in all the time we have been in Block H. Before we started charging we allowed FREE access to any BP paying visitor. We have paid BP in excess of £500,000 + utilities for the privilege of showing BP visitors around our museum!

"The Trust now claim that the NMOC owe them £200k in historic debt;"

Payment has now been negotiated and agreed. The figure is much less that £200,00 due to BP having no records of use and also a faulty meter..

"They claim part ownership of Colossus;"

They tried too but even Scarlett has stated BP have no ownership of Colossus. Maybe someone should tell Standon that!

"they refuse to collect money on the gate for NMOC so you have to pay extra to see Colossus, and the whole of the NMOC is out of bounds to tour guides - I believe they are even instructed not to mention its existence."

All true, and confirmed by BP guides we have spoken to, regardless of what Standon claims.

" But the location of the [Lorenz] machine is at NMOC."

We do not have the LZ42. It was at TNMOC for a few weeks when the Tunny gallery was opened a few years ago, but it went back to BP where it resides now. So any dispute with working on the machine is between Sawyer and BP not TNMOC.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Re: Sawyers article factually incorrect in places

Well, the quotes were communicated from a fellow list member on the Greenkeys teleprinter forum. In fact it was a private communication, and was sent to The Register without my knowlege or agreement. When The Register contacted me for comment, I said that because everything I knew came from private communications from BP and TNMOC staff - and I view privately communicated information as precisely that - private.

I also absolutely did not say the the Lorenz machine was at TNMOC. That is the nub of the problem - it is NOT at TNMOC, but ought to be.

That BPT assert "It also denied it was neglecting the upkeep of the German cipher machine:

The Bletchley Park Trust now employs a Curator; the custodian of the Trust’s collection, responsible for its protection, preservation and conservation, in line with the standards you would expect for its value to the nation." is ridiculous - perhaps they can point to where the mains transformer should be?

And look - I have no intention of having any truck with BPT. Standen has had my business card for well over a year, knows my role in the SZ42 restoration, knows perfectly well that it has a fault, and that I want to repair it. If he wants me to re-fix the machine I restored to full functionality a decade ago he only has to pick up the phone.

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G_R

Every El Reg reader can help - go and make a donation - it's better for you than a packet of fags/ couple of pints of beer/ {fill in your own private vice}/

http://www.tnmoc.org/support/make-donation

Yes, another anonymous coward, I know.....

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I did

And in the comments I put that I was an El Reg reader. Let them know where their fanbase is!

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Re: I did

And we thank you, Hollerith 1, and the considerable number of new members (and those who have renewed) that have signed up and supported us over the past couple of weeks. It is always good to know our efforts in keeping our heritage alive, and available to the public is appreciated by so many.

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Joke

Don't mention the war between BP and TNMOC

I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

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Re: Don't mention the war between BP and TNMOC

Kind of ironic that it was all set up to help win the war and is now the victim of a war

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Anonymous Coward

This is confusing

Wouldn't it have been simpler to turn the whole of Bletchley Park over to the National Trust ? The NT on the whole do a pretty good job, go and see Cragside or Styal Mill for some of their good work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is confusing

NT is becoming increasingly dumbed down and it would be all about "experience what it felt like to be a WWII code breaker" etc ... though they would build a decent cafe and gift shop.

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Re: This is confusing

Oh gods no not the National Trust! I know a fair number of stories about them (some experienced first hand) which basically show them as money grabbing and completely insensitive to the very things they should be preserving e.g. bulldozing a 400 year old hedge to replace it with something "neater", or asking 3rd and 4th generation tenants to pay holiday let type rates for their homes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is confusing

To paraphrase - stuff the National Trust - they're a bunch of thieving small minded idiots.

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Re: This is confusing

Oh god, no, not the NT. Cragside. The first hydro electric house in Britain, but they don't even have a light bulb powered by it, despite a bunch of volunteer techies maintaining the turbines. If it's not soft and fluffy or a soft furnishing they're not interesdted

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Re: This is confusing

Unfortunately, the two NT sites you mention are the exceptions. At Styal Mill, my understanding is that the working exhibits are in the hands of some sort of separate trust or organisation that runs and maintains them. And they were in place before the NT arrived on the scene.

At Cragside, I didn't see much actual historic technology working when I visited. I did see reproductions of the original light bulbs which was interesting and enlightening. Nothing else though - including the much trumpeted hydropower.

I've been trying to get working exhibits of WWII electronics into a NT site which was similar to Bletchley Park for its contribution to the war effort (but is barely known outside a few specialists like myself). I''ve been working towards this for the last few years, but have recently been told "we don't want anything working in our museum". You will get the same attitude in other museums - the Royal Signals Museum at Blandford for instance, which I have first hand knowledge of.

The truth is that the general run of people who run "heritage" have no understanding of, and no interest in, technology and its history. There interests are in the people who did the technology and how they lived their lives - not in the actual artefacts they invented or used.

And to be fair, the "geeksquad" who do understand it and know about it (and I am full card-carrying member), have failed to make it interesting to the ordinary person in the street. The exceptions are those small groups (for instance) who fire up old steam engines once in a while and show them to the public. It sounds like NMOC may well be an exception too but I have yet to visit it.

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I believe the National Radio Centre is at BP as a separate attraction also.

I wonder how that is working out?

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