The WITCH flies in from Birmingham, Elliott 803 reliability improves and more gallery progress
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The WITCH arrival is an important event for the museum with Thursday and Saturday being very busy for all the volunteers.
Harwell / WITCH computer flies in
After over 3 years of research by Kevin M / CCS and more than a year in planning, the day finally arrived when the Harwell Dekatron Computer (HDC), later renamed WITCH, was put on display in a new gallery at the museum. Stephen F (our PR guy) did his thing which resulting in a flood of press and TV coverage worldwide for the event with interviews to both press and TV being done over the last few days. It is an amazing machine considering it is all original and well worth a visit to see it. We are also hopeful that we can get the funds to restore it and Tony F and his team are eager to get started as soon as possible. (Update: fundraising page now closed.)
Elliott 803 tape reader fixed
After last weeks maintenance by Peter O the tape reader continues to work very well. It has had a lot of testing with reading in the 2 large Algol compiler tapes on many occasions. Both Kevin B and Peter O report being able to load tapes within seconds of the main system starting so this is one more problem put behind us (for now anyway).
Elliott 803 2nd 4K store fixed and Algol compiling
The problem with parity errors when the 2nd store cabinet rear door is closed was traced to the door not fitting properly due it being bent (which actually happened before the system arrived at the museum). This was causing some of the store read amplifiers to touch the door, causing the errors. After some adjustment (using pliers and brute force by Peter O) plus some additional rubber beading around the cabinet frame, the door now closes properly and the parity errors no longer occur.The system is now stable enough to be able to load and run the Algol compiler and Peter O is busy trying to find some suitable programs to test the compiler out.
Work on the new Electronic Office gallery is continuing. The ceiling has now been painted and plans for the rewiring of the room and some other rooms in the museum are being drawn up. As the building is so old it was deemed necessary to do a full survey on the existing building wiring in the vicinity of the Electronic Office to ensure we had enough circuits for the new wiring and to try and free up a spare circuit for a future display still in planning.
Packet switching gallery
Work is continuing on a new gallery which is intended to demonstrate the history of packet switching and how it related to the development of the internet. Our display fitters, Bex, have been in to take up the carpet and flooring and make a start on the painting.Most of the display has now been completed in Bex's factory and we hope to have the displays in place in the next few weeks. Tony F has been busy putting together some 'hands on' exhibits and Pete H has been looking at the wiring requirements.
ICL 2966 cooling and operator console
Peter H continues with the fitting of an air flow system to ensure we can dissipate the large amount of heat generated by the ICL 2966 cabinets. The main airflow box is complete and smoke detectors have now been fitted to ensure warning of possible overheating is identified. He has been able to run one and two cabinets for extended periods without any sign of overheating so it looks like the system is working well. Nice work Pete.
Still no progress on fixing the operators console. However, there may be a light just flickering at the end of the tunnel. A visitor came to the museum on Saturday and after being told about the console problems said he may have a console for the 2966. This could be the break we need so Pete H is going to pursue this to see if we can get hold of another one which may still be working. Fingers crossed!
Bletchley Park had a 2 day enigma weekend which attracted over 2500 visitors (hence why our museum was very busy on Saturday). Some of the highlights included 3 very low passes from the memorial flight Lancaster, nearly 100 veterans who used to work at the park during the war and the largest collection of Enigma and encryption machines from around the world since the end of the war.