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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Monday, 5 October 2009

Bletchley Park

We've started catching up on the 'days out' that we wanted to have during the summer holidays; high on the list was Bletchley Park, the wartime home of code decryption which has evolved into a museum of wartime codebreaking, and now includes a model railway exhibition and the National Museum of Computing.

It is, therefore, a bit of a geek's paradise - and when we entered, the atmosphere was just what one would expect - it was like going into one of the university faculties when I was a student, entirely focussed on a subject about which the curators were passionate and extremely knowledgeable.

There were, in fact, tours of the site - which extends over several of the huts and blocks, although most of the old buildings (of which the BBC Radio 4 sitcom Hut 33 is an affectionate parody) are now boarded up, some of which are in terribly disrepair. Our friends Emma and Pete, with whom we were visiting, had been before and said that the guided tours were extremely informative; I think, perhaps, that's one for when Beth and I go on our own (our tickets are valid for a year, and children get in for free - a bit of a bargain, really!)

Christopher especially enjoyed seeing Turing's Bombe - one of the most important parts of the wartime code decryption effort, and Colossus, a later - electronic - machine, but there were so many other machines to see, from mainframes to micros that it was a bit of an overload, really!

The curators of the Colossus exhibition gave the children a small piece of paper tape to decrypt - a great way to retain the interest once they got home - I shall have to direct them to codesandciphers.org to work out what they say!

Lenni loved the model railways - we've not had anything more than a Tomy Track Master system at home, but it's certainly inspired ideas of a layout! She also very much enjoyed the outdoor play area, which had some modern play equipment and some classic activities, including a giant chess set.

All-in-all, the site was a little haphazard, with lots of walking from building to building involved, but it was a really good day out, and I'm keen to go back and see some of the (many!) bits I've missed.

Here are a few pictures from our visit - please click on them to see bigger versions, and there are more - as always - in the gallery.

Chris in front of Turing's BombeColossus
Lenni in the play parkWe had a ZX81!

Posted by james at October 5, 2009 10:20 AM

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