2009 was a very busy and exciting year at the museum
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Here is summary of the key events that have occurred at the museum during 2009.
New museum website goes live
The UKs largest public display of slide rules opens using exhibits from the UK Slide Rule Circle collection.
IRIS - The Air Traffic Control investigative radar recording system, used at the West Drayton, goes on display.
Obsolete? concert by chip tune musician Matthew Applegate (Pixelh8) in the Bletchley Park mansion.
Vintage Personal Computing gallery officially opens
Power-Samas 40 column punch card equipment arrives from Liverpool and restoration starts.
IBM 1130 scientific computer arrives from Liverpool.
Computing archive opens thanks to a generous donation of shelving by Compact Storage Ltd.
Tony Sale, a director and trustee of The National Museum of Computing, was awarded an honorary doctorate by The Open University for his work on the rebuilding of Colossus.
The Duke of Kent visits the museum and presents Tony Sale with two awards on behalf of the Bletchley Park Trust.
Harwell Dekatron Computer (WITCH) arrives from Birmingham and restoration starts.
Sir Maurice Wilkes, one of the fathers of computing visits the Museum.
History of the Internet gallery opens thanks to sponsorship from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).
Several in-house restoration projects were started and are on-going:
Work progressed throughout the year on restoring our ICL 2966 mainframe and significant progress was made. Volunteer Pete Hyde continued the work he started in 2008 which involved getting several of the 80MB and 200MB top loading disc drives into a state where they could be run-up reliably. He also spent a lot of time on the processor (OCP), peripheral controller (DCU) and memory controller cabinets getting the fans and PSUs working. He also built an air-duct system to dissipate the immense heat generated by the main cabinets to the outside. Pete also had assistance from several people at Fujitsu, especially Alasdair Lewis. We also had some new volunteers, one of which started helping Pete on the 2966. Sadly in November, Pete Hyde decided to stand down as a volunteer for personal reasons so it was left to Delwyn to take up the rains and continue with the restoration project. Since taking over the lead role, Delwyn, with help from Alastair has managed to get the main processor and DCU controllers to a state where they could load some initial boot code from a disk pack - unfortunately the disk drives are now suffering bearing problems so it is too risky to use them. Delwyn is currently designing and building a hardware interface board to allow a normal PC to be used in place of a disk or tape drive. This will allow further progress to be made on fault finding on the DCU/OCP/Memory cabinets without the need for the disk drives to be fixed.
40 column punch card equipment
This collection consists of thirteen 40 column punch card machines which perform various activities from punching to collating, printing and sorting. The restoration work is being done by volunteer Graham Wallace and he has spent many months slowly and carefully dismantling, de-rusting, freeing, cleaning and restoring many of the machines, some of which are in a very degraded condition. The progress, while slow, is being made with many of the machines now freed to move by hand. There is still a lot of work to do and in some cases major repairs needed before they will be in a state where they can be displayed.
Harwell Dekatron Computer / WHICH
Thanks to many years of research by Trustee Kevin Murrell and numerous meetings, phone calls and form filling by Kevin and several other volunteers, the Harwell Dekatron Computer, also known as the WITCH, arrived on loan from Birmingham museum. The Harwell computer is one of the oldest original computers in existence today and volunteers Tony Frazer and Johan Iversen, ably assisted by other people from the Colossus team, have the complex task of restoring it to working order. Progress, while intentionally slow, has been made with work on the power supplies and power distribution going well. The relays are being checked, cleaned and repaired by Eddie Washington and we have received many donations of valves and Dekatron tubes. There has also been a lot of interest shown in the system with many visits by the original designers and families.
Probably one of the oldest in terms of time in the collection, the Elliott 803B has been one of the main stays of the museum. Volunteer and one of the original founders of the museum, John Sinclair, spent many years restoring and maintaining the system to working order. Since joining last year, volunteer Peter Onion has taken on the responsibility of maintaining the system and also writing / designing both a hardware and software emulation of the system.
This is an area of the museum activities that rarely gets a mention but there is a great deal of work that is done to enable the museum to open and be run so successfully. It is always difficult to highlight individuals when there is a large team of people (the volunteers) who all make valuable contributions to the cause. However, and hopefully without causing too much embarrassment, I will mention a few individuals in no particular order:
The Trustees: It should be noted that while it may not always be obvious what they do, each of the trustees plays an important role in the running of the museum and keeping it on the right path. In particular they are responsible for finding the funding to allow us to continue.
Margaret and Tony Sale: Margaret has the thankless task of keeping track of the finances related to running the museum and many other administrative tasks, while Tony has been one of the longest serving members of the museum and responsible for building Colossus, one of the major attractions for both Bletchley Park and the museum.
Kevin Murrell: Kevin has put an enormous amount of time and effort into the museum over the past few years and is pretty much full time now. As well as being a Trustee, he is regularly helping out at the museum many days a week, taking care of visitors and has played a key role in administering and planning many of the galleries.
Ben Trethowan: Who has written and maintains all the museum procedures and process documentation. He is also a key figure and driving force in our aim of attaining MLA accreditation. He is also responsible for all donations to the museum and manages the museum database of equipment.
Lin Jones: Who has taken on the day to day management of the museum and is also responsible for volunteer recruitment, administering the education visits and generally keeping us on track.
And not forgetting all the other volunteers without whom there would not be a museum. Thanks to you all.
That pretty much sums up our activities for 2009 but I'm sure I have forgotten something which may be added later. We have lots to do in 2010 and another blog posting will detail some of that shortly.