Back to Bletchley
From time to time, a group of us from work take the day off work, pile into a car and set off down the motorway to Bletchley Park – home of The National Museum of Computing. Home of Colossus (pictured above) – a computer built during the second world war to crack messages from the german high command, which were encoded with a Lorenz Cypher (which is a bit like the more famous enigma machine, on steroids)
They’ve also rebuilt a Bombe (a machine used to break Enigma by essentially throwing 36 automated enigma machines at the problem, throwing out any wheel settings that don’t work) the pipework on it for lubricating all its rotors is a thing of beauty – but one I’ve photographed before. The above is our tour guide pointing pointing with a plywood-and-string replica that was built as a film prop.
As well as all the wartime stuff, they’ve got a collection of historic computers (both small and large) and a classroom set up with a complete suite of BBCs, and little programming tasks. Above, you can see Dan trying to write a program to spit out the first 20 prime numbers.
So that’s another trip to Bletchley done (and we managed not to go to the Milton Keynes Phone Museum this time!) – I’m sure we’ll be back again in a year or so – if nothing else, I want to see The Witch running, which (when they’ve finished restoring it) will be the oldest, complete, original (non-reproduction) computer. Then I can take the photo I’ve wanted to take for *ages* of the pretty decatrons it uses as its memory store.
I meant to write this up yesterday, but fell asleep instead. I spent my Sunday afternoon at Bristol Zoo again this week. The weather was nice enough, but there was quite a lot of cloud cover, so the light wasn’t ideal for animal photos (had to drag the shutter quite extensively, which isn’t conducive to sharp fur detail)
Still, this meerkat sat still long enough to get a reasonable shot. If only I’d been able to bounce a bit of light into his eyes though, they’re a little dark. I guess that’s probably not really on at a zoo though, waving great big white reflectors at the animals.
Lastly, here’s a boring picture of some flowers – which (if I’m honest) is mostly to remind me to pencil in “forget-me-nots and tulips” on the calendar for planting next spring, as the colour combination here would look gorgeous in my front garden.
I’ve had a full on day of telephones!
It was the first THG swapmeet of the year today (pretty much a car-boot sale, but for telephones) – I overslept, and had to leave the house in a bit of a rush, so didn’t take with me everything I was planning to (most importantly, I forgot to take a pocket full of small change – so made a bit of a pest of myself paying for small value items with notes – oops!)
I had a quick jaunt up the M5 to Cheltenham where I met up with Ian in a layby, transferred a couple of boxes of
junk interesting telecomunications equipment into the boot of his car and then set off to Avoncroft.
We stopped off briefly at a “real” car boot sale on the way to see if there was anything worth having. There wasn’t. Just the usual mountain of baby clothes, pirate DVDs and nasty cheap electrical goods. Oh, and a stall full of really rather dubious looking home made abstract “art”. Then it was onwards to Avoncroft!
Most of the morning was spent rummaging through boxes unearthing hidden gems and chatting to loads of lovely telephone people. I finally managed to dispose of two fruit boxes full of junk from my front room* – mostly by giving it away to anyone who expressed an interest in any of it. It’s taken almost a year to shift that lot.
After lunch we went to have a look around the Avoncroft collection of telephone kiosks, and managed to swing a tour of their mobile TXE2 electronic exchange. The TXE exchanges were built to bridge the gap between Strowger/UAX exchanges and SystemX. There weren’t as many built as there were Strowger/SystemX exchanges and there aren’t that many TXEs left working, it’s possible that the one at Avoncroft is the only one in fully working condition. (Unless there’s one in the hands of a private collector that I don’t know about)
This is part of it:
Unfortunately, I can’t remember which part. It looks like a jumper or strapping bank though. I took the photo mostly because I thought it was pretty.
Then we had a very interesting talk/demonstration from John Mulrane about how to polish and restore Bakelite. There’s a bit more to it than I had previously thought, but now I want to buy a buffing machine so I can really clean up some of my phones. John was getting marvellous results from his!
Then it was back in the car, back to Cheltenham to transfer my goodies from Ians car back in to mine, then home to Bristol. I’ve unloaded the car, fed the cat, and managed to get an hours worth of weeding done in the garden to boot. All in all, a very enjoyable and productive day.
* I might have filled the gap with the new stuff I brought home, but I’ve traded stuff I don’t want for stuff I do want – which is good! Honest!
Today at the railway
I spent another day at the railway today, we jointed another 50 pair cabinet and prepared another cabinet for jointing (once we run in another cable) There was a “Branch line experience day” running as well, and they were pottering up and down the line with Sapper (pictured above). Sapper is a recently rebuilt 0-6-0 Saddle tank who has come to us for a bit of a shakedown.
As well as all the physical stuff, Ian and I spent a bit of time fiddling with our Asterisk server and got it talking to the internet. We can now connect to it from home, and make phone calls through the UAX13 exchange!