BCS secures computer heritage

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BCS donates £75,000 to aid the development of The National Museum of Computing

15 January 2007

The British Computer Society (BCS) has helped secure the future of Colossus, the world’s first digital computer, in its original location where it cracked Nazi codes during the World War II and played a key role in the Allied victory.

Colossus will form an important focus of the National Museum of Computing being developed by Codes And Ciphers Heritage Trust (CCHT) in partnership with Bletchley Park Trust (BPT).

The working rebuild of one of the Colossus machines that cracked the German Army High Command’s Lorenz cipher now occupies its original site at Bletchley Park. Colossus reduced the time to break Lorenz messages from weeks to hours and deciphered the messages between Hitler and his generals giving vital information to Eisenhower and Montgomery prior to D-Day.

Andy Clark, a director and Trustee of CCHT added: “Recent history resonates through Bletchley’s Block H and it is the most fitting of locations for the developing National Museum of Computing. BCS’s very generous donation to enable the re-housing of Colossus on its original site is a key step in our plans and we are thrilled and gratified by their support to secure such a vital part of our computer heritage.”

“Colossus is a genuine milestone in computing history – not just in terms of the crucially important role it played in winning World War II, but also in terms of the way it paved the way for the future of computing,” said Professor Nigel Shadbold, BCS President. “BCS is therefore delighted and honoured to support the re-installation of Colossus in its original position at Bletchley and, through the BCS Computer Conservation Society, to have helped in rebuilding a fully operational Colossus.”

Simon Greenish, Director of Bletchley Park Trust commented: “This is an exciting development for Bletchley Park and yet another significant move in securing its future. With Bletchley Park being the birthplace of the modern computer, it is an appropriate and fitting tribute to the genius of Alan Turing and his many wartime colleagues who worked here that the National Museum of Computing is housed here. The synergies between Bletchley park Trust and the National Museum of Computing will add value to both our Visitor Experience and our Education Programme.”

Planned for development throughout 2007, the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park is being undertaken by Codes And Ciphers Heritage Trust (CCHT) in partnership with Bletchley Park Trust (BPT) and will show how the painstaking work of the Bletchley Park codebreakers cracked first the Enigma and then the Lorenz machine that gave rise to the age of digital computing.

The Museum will complement Bletchley Park Trust’s story of codebreaking up to the Colossus and will allow visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of that time, through the mainframes of the 1960s and 1970s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980s.

Viewing of the operational Colossus is already open to the public. Other planned exhibits at the National Museum of Computing will include a working Air Traffic Control station previously installed at West Drayton, and a working ICL 2900, one of the workhorse mainframes computers of the 1980s.

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