back to article National Museum of Computing rattles the bucket: Help shift war-winning proto-puter

The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) has organised a whip-round to move a historic code-breaking computer into a new location at Bletchley Park, England. TNMOC wants to move the world's only working reproduction Turing-Welchman Bombe, as used for deciphering German Enigma messages during the Second World War, into Block H …

  1. Dan Melluish

    Where does the angle of Bletchley Park Trust and TNMOC not getting on fit into this? At the moment the Bombe is part of an exhibit in Block B complete with Enigma machines, notebooks and other artifacts. The live demo of the Bombe is a big crowd pleaser.

    The crowdfunding site says "The National Museum of Computing needs £50,000 to keep the Bombe on the Bletchley Park Estate." Seems a bit odd - is it in danger of being moved elsewhere?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bletchley Park Trust busy spinning

      This excerpt from Bletchley Park Trust's press release says it all -

      "Talks over the years have not led to a mutually satisfactory agreement between the two trusts and TWBRT have decided to relocate their exhibits to The National Museum of Computing. BPT fully respects this decision and is in discussion with TWBRT to ensure a smooth transition to their new home."

      TWBRT may have decided to relocate, but who do you think left them with no option?

      1. graeme leggett

        Re: Bletchley Park Trust busy spinning

        I think I read that it's also partly the case that TNMOC are the better fit to look after and maintain the Bombe as a functioning item.

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Simple...

      Bletchley Park Trust own the site. The whole kit and kaboodle. Everything. TNMOC and TWBRT are "just" renting space from BPT for their assets. What was once a very collegial atmosphere between the two (TNMOC and BPT) went sour when BPT acquired the full site after successful funding efforts and started charging others rent. The spat between BPT and TNMOC cost BPT at least one trustee and a *lot* of goodwill. I for one haven't been back after they banned their volunteers (many of them site veterans) from telling people about the Colossus exhibit at TNMOC, and started rushing them to do a tour in less than 90 minutes. They have so much more to tell but these days tell you that 'sorry, we must move on or we'll be late'. :-/

    3. Shindles

      Why the funding is needed

      Funding is needed to refurbish the areas where the Bombe is to be placed. This is expensive because listed building consent is needed and extra space required. To move the Bombe is also expensive. TNMOC is manned by unpaid volunteers but builders have to be employed.

  2. Cursorkeys

    Support TNMOC, Boycott Bletchley Park

    TNMOC is a very worthwhile cause and well worth a visit, but I've stopped visiting Bletchley Park itself for the disgraceful way they've treated TNMOC.

    The modernisation of Bletchley Park was not sympathetic either, it's quite clear they wanted a lucrative tourist attraction first and if some history managed to cling to the site then whatever.

    https://freelance.halfacree.co.uk/2014/01/disharmony-at-bletchley-park/comment-page-1/

    http://i-programmer.info/news/82-heritage/6888-uk-national-computer-museum-off-limits-at-bletchley-park.html

    1. Dan Melluish

      Re: Support TNMOC, Boycott Bletchley Park

      Those are some interesting links - thank you. I recently visited Bletchley and although I knew Colossus was in another museum on the same site I didn't know there would be a locked gate stopping access at the most logical point on site. Not great if you have a disability!

      Still, TNMOC was amazing and I encourage anyone vaguely interested to get there and have a look round. The Colossus rebuild is an amazing achievement but the museum is also packed full of lots of other exhibits that will bring back memories.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Support TNMOC, Boycott Bletchley Park

        If we're all honest with each other, you can go to Bletchley Park once and you're done.

        But, if you go to the TNMOC once, you have to go again because it's so bloody brilliant! Last time I went I had acquired an IBM PC XT and I wasn't keen on keeping it. I spoke to TNMOC thinking I had a super rare machine (I hadn't seen one in the flesh or on eBay my entire life). But the chap pointed out the one they had and said they had 10 more in the back.

        Still, I'd sooner support TNMOC than Bletchley every day of the week. Including sundays.

  3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

    Bletchley vs TNMOC

    Sad. One wonders why we can't all get along. Perhaps more enlightened management will appear.

    I remember, way back in the mists of time, when Bletchley was in danger of being bulldozed and turned into a housing estate, it was the WWII, history and computer nerds who donated to save it. Now, it seems, Bletchley's management has forgotten how related the two facilities should be.

    Anyway, from TFA:

    Codebreaker Bill Tutte managed to break Lorenz and reverse-engineer the Lorenz machine's internal workings within six months, despite never having seen a machine in the flesh – something that was described by TNMOC as "the greatest intellectual feat of the war".

    Possibly equalled by the 18 month long American analysis and reconstruction of the Japanese PURPLE cipher machine. No originals were ever found, but the American reconstruction was able to read all the traffic. It used telephone stepper switches.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They should really find a site of their own and leave Bletchley to their corporate entertainment business so they can pay their 'executive' team.

    1. Shindles

      Trouble is that the rebuilt Colossus is situated EXACTLY where Colossus number 9 was, so it is historically important/relevant for it to be in H-Block.

  5. SiFly

    Tourist Trap

    When I visited Bletchley Park I was really really disappointed with very little explanation of how they actually did the decryption and the processes involved and how their processes evolved as the war progressed.

    I suppose a good summary of this place is in that they put a speaker next to the pond where the boat was attached to make sounds of a boat gently rubbing against the platform as well the sound of aircraft flying close.

    At the end of my stay i felt distinctly ripped off, the only good point being a raspberry pi showing videos of the pigeon war

    1. ciderbuddy

      Re: Tourist Trap

      The pigeons were brilliant. Was the only thing I learnt all day when I visited. It is very much the amusement park; it was fun, but they didn't even scratch the surface on the work done there

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Tourist Trap

      the pigeon war

      Never heard of that - was it some sort of military coo?

      1. Alister Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Tourist Trap

        was it some sort of military coo?

        Well played sir!

    3. MrT

      Re: Tourist Trap

      It's a shame, then, as I've wanted to go but never been in the right place at the right time...

      Still, if it's the technicalities that need explaining, try this book:-

      Colossus: The secrets of Bletchley Park's code-breaking computers edited by Jack Copeland - pulling together essays and other details written by the people who actually did the work back in the war. Get the print version, though, as some reviewers have pointed out the Kindle version omits the pictures...

  6. Alister Silver badge

    Well-known actor Bandersnatchington Cumperdinklehough

    In our household, he is affectionately known as Bend-him-over-the-cucumber-patch.

    1. ciderbuddy

      Re: Well-known actor Bandersnatchington Cumperdinklehough

      Cumberland Sausage

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well-known actor Bandersnatchington Cumperdinklehough

        Bumbaclart Cuntymints

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          Re: Well-known actor Bandersnatchington Cumperdinklehough

          Bendertwix Cunderthunt

    2. Whit.I.Are

      Re: Well-known actor Bandersnatchington Cumperdinklehough

      Bendydick Cumbersnatch

  7. hairydog

    There appears to be something very wrong with how Bletchley Park is being run. I can't say from any position of knowledge: the admission price was ridiculous when I considered visiting.

    I would like to see the national museum of computing, but for me it isn't going to happen if it is inside the rip-off Bletchley Theme Park.

    It isn't clear from this article whether it would be moving away from the malign influence of Bletchley Park "management" or towards it. Let's hope it is the former!

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      I would like to see the national museum of computing, but for me it isn't going to happen if it is inside the rip-off Bletchley Theme Park.

      It is not.

      Simply walk past the BTP entrance[0], turn left, and a couple hundred metres on you'll walk straight into the TNMOC.

      [0] rude gestures entirely optional.

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      TNMOC is not inside the fence

      While BPT owns the whole site, TNMOC has a separate building and site (it's past all the parking lots all the way to the top of the site). You can easily visit TNMOC without having to enter the fenced-in BPT 'attraction'. :-)

    3. imanidiot Silver badge

      From what I understand you don't have to go into "other" Bletchley Park to visit TNMOC, you can go straight there and only visit TNMOC.(Actually, it seems you can't even GET to TNMOC from Bletchley Park or the other way around)

      See: http://www.tnmoc.org/visit

    4. Shindles

      You can visit TNMOC separately, no need to pay Bletchley Park. Simply tell them at the gate you are visiting TNMOC. Open from 12 noon on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. http://tnmoc.org

  8. Flicker

    Went there once with my Dad for a reunion with his mates from Hanslope Park ( https://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/05/geeks_guide_hanslope_park ) where he was stationed as a radio intercept operator in the war. All the best bits were staffed by volunteer enthusiasts, with the main BPT stuff all dumbed down drivel. I heard afterwards that BPT had kicked out the best bit for me - a hut full of early DWS kit run by a fascinating chap called David White who I think ended up having to break up his collection in what seems like an act of pure spite by BPT. Never been back, no intention of doing so unless only to TNMOC part... Very sad...

  9. sisk Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Bandersnatchington Cumperdinklehough

    Someone owes me a new keyboard....

  10. GerryMC

    OK, interesting to note the behaviour of the BPT.

    I'm visiting the UK later this year - in your summer, and will be heading up the M1. For a fan of the history of Bletchley (and long time Programmer) is it worth visiting BP, or should I just stick to TNMOC?

    It will be on a Monday or Tuesday at the end of June, so only the Colossus Galleries will be open (or is different in Summer?)

    Thanks

    Gerry

    1. YAAC

      If you want to see all of TNMOC, including the Harwell Dekatron/Witch and you can only get there on a Monday or Tuesday your best bet is to book yourself on a guided tour on Tuesday at 2:30pm. Otherwise on those days you’re restricted to the Tunny and Colossus galleries.

    2. Andy Taylor

      GerryMC - guided tours are available for days when the full museum is not otherwise open.

      Check the TNMOC website for details and to book your tour.

    3. Intractable Potsherd

      To answer your question about whether it is worth visiting BP, my opinion is that it isn't if you are on limited time. The changes under the new manglement have done nothing for the place - it is now no better than a theme park, unfortunately. Definitely go and see TNMOC if you can - you won't be disappointed with the exhibits, or the sheer depth and breadth of knowledge possessed by the guides.

      Hope that helps!

      1. GerryMC

        So Bletchley Towers then?

        Oddly enough, I will be on-route to a theme park! (and beyond to what my wife thinks is the "real" part of England, but then, she speaks with an accent exceedingly rare)

  11. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    Bomba Before

    Correct me if i'm wrong, but the origonal bombes were designed about October 1938 by Polish Cipher Bureau cryptologist Marian Rejewski, and Turings design was adapted from it with the assistance of Rejewski and one of the bomba that was smuggled out of Poland.

    the UK had two great advantages:

    1) not occupied by germans

    2) had some cash and resource

  12. Astrohead

    Re: Well-known actor Bandersnatchington Cumperdinklehough

    When he got married I was most disappointed that his wife's first initial wasn't "Q".

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wish them

    Bombe voyage?

    (scuttles off into flame-proof bunker, somewhere under London. Rumors of it being next door to the "Ministry of Magic" next to the Department of Mysteries are currently unsubstantiated)

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