New gallery opening, a big day for the ICL 2966 and spooky tours of the museum

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It's been a little while since the last update due to holidays etc., so here are some of the main activities over the past few weeks...

New museum shop opens

We are pleased to announce the opening of our new shop. Thanks to a generous donation from BEX, our display fitters, we now have a somewhat larger than expected, but none-the-less very spectacular shop counter. The shop also has vending machines for coffee/tea and snacks and several tables and chairs. This, together with the new gallery (see below) has allowed us to open up a new area of the museum to extend the attractions we have for visitors. The shop is also stocked with merchandise related to the museum, sales of which go towards the running of the museum.

History of the Internet gallery grand opening

After over 6 months in the planning, many months of construction by BEX, our display fitters, and the usual mad last few weeks by many of the volunteers, the new gallery sponsored by NPL was formerly opened on 4th December 2009. The event attracted over 80 people, many past and present NPL employees, including some of Donald Davies colleagues involved in the original development of packet switching. We also had a large amount of press coverage and the BBC spent most of the day filming in the new gallery. The event went off really well and everyone was pleased with the result. Thanks must go to all the volunteers who put in many hundreds of hours work to complete the gallery on time. You can see some pictures of the new gallery in the virtual tour page.

ICL 2966 finally boots from disk

After the frustrations of a few months ago when the ICL console failed to work, and after many weeks of work by Delwyn, Pete H and others on the DCU, the ICL 2966 finally managed to read a bootstrap program from one of the DRS80 disk drives for the first time in over 15 years. It was even more surprising that the disk pack was actually still readable after such a long time. You can read more detailed reports on the progress of the restoration on the projects page.

A spooky visit

A large private group visit of 60+ people to the museum is nothing unusual nowadays, so the visit on 9th December 2009 was all set-up as usual... then a few events happened to make it more memorable than any other... The first of these events was a total power failure at the Park, including the museum just before the visitors arrived by coach. This meant the planned tea/coffee arrival was off... A quick call by Kevin M to a local hotel and the coach was off to it for coffee/teas etc.

Then the second event occurred... during the trip up, one of the coach windows was broken so after dropping off the visitors at the hotel, the driver left for London to have it repaired, not realising the 60+ people needed to be taken to the museum after drinks. A few calls later and a fleet of taxis arrived at the hotel but because of the short notice they needed to be paid in cash... so Lin was left to organise the visitors into taxis with Kevin M paying each one as they arrived at the park. By this time some power had been restored to the mansion so a talk by Tony Sale could go ahead, and so could lunch.

The plan after lunch was a tour of the museum, but the museum was still without power and much of it in darkness. So, ever resourceful, Lin managed to get a few torches together and took several smaller groups on a somewhat spooky and very unusual torchlight tour of the museum.

We are pleased to report that all the visitors had a really good time at the museum and also spent over £300 in the shop before leaving which was very generous of them. A big thanks and well done to Lin, Kevin M, Tony Sale and the other volunteers for making the day go so well in very adverse conditions.

Other news

IRIS air traffic control system is sick again with the RDI fault returning and now the DEG display processors failing to load. Peter V suspects the cold has not helped but the NPL gallery has taken priority so he should be able to spend some time on it at the weekend.

The Electronic Office decorating is coming along with John S and Michelle helping out. Still lots to do but volunteer availability is limited but should improve now the new internet history gallery is completed.

Progress has been made on the Harwell computer with much of the power supply now working. More details on this can be found on the projects page.

Christmas opening times

In line with Bletchley Park opening times, the museum will be closed on 24th, 25th and 26th December and 1st January 2010. We should be open Bank holiday Monday 27th December and Thursday 31st December subject to weather conditions and volunteer availability.

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