86 Boxes

Posted in Uncategorized on May 8th, 2010 by Coffee

86 boxes of stuff on the wall…

86 boxes of stuff on the wall…

And if 86 boxes should happen to fall into a little truck…

There’d be pretty much nothing left in the flat except 2 suitcases, 2 laptops, and some cleaning products. Gulp!


Posted in Geeky Tech Stuff, Travel on May 5th, 2010 by Coffee

Following on from the enigma of the last post, another enigma…

Enigma Machine

This one is a slightly different beast!

We took a trip up north a bit the other weekend to collect the last of the belongings that we’d had stored up in “Kiwi Corner”, and to take the chance to catch up with a few other friends in Milton Keynes. I managed to convince Bec that the only thing that almost passed for a tourist attraction there is Bletchley Park, home to the WWII code breaking effort. Well, unless you’re some sort of roundabout freak, or something….

The story of what went on there has somehow made it into my head over the years, and was brought to life especially in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, so it has been a place I’d long wanted to visit.

The park itself was an interesting mix of old mansion and coach houses etc., with barrack type sheds and all sorts of other temporary (at the time) building shoved all over the place. As they were obviously so temporary some have started to feel the ravages on time, but recently with the help of some extra funding a good amount of restoration has started, with the most historically important sheds naturally being done first. The grounds themselves look like there hasn’t ever been too long between visits from a gardener and would have been a great place for a picnic. If we’d had any food. Or it was close to a meal-time. Which we didn’t and it wasn’t. But we had a nice stroll around anyway.

As well as the buildings and grounds, there was the main event. Various displays of both old and newly rebuilt code breaking and decoding equipment, along with various displays relating to the war period. Some obvious highlights such as the Turing bombe rebuild project, and the Enigma machines themselves.

It’s still pretty mind-blowing to think of the thought and ingenuity involved in all of this. And, of course, this was pretty much where the beginnings of modern computing, erm, began!

Which means it was no surprise to find that The National Museum of Computing is situated in a few buildings on the edge of the park. There has obviously been a bit more cash (or at least a bit more cash per square metre) for this bit. Not surprising really given the subject matter. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been too hard to squeeze a wodge of cash out of Microsoft or IBM or similar to get a wall painted now and then…

It was really fun to see all the old computers I first started out using at home and at friends places. Here’s the second computer I really used, and the first one I/we owned.

I still say a huge silent thank you to Mum for buying it whenever I see one, as without the Spectrum at home I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t’ be doing what I’m doing now. So here’s a slightly less silent thank you: Thanks Mum!

All in all it was a really interesting place to wander around, and I’m really glad I got to see it. I just hope they manage to secure a bit more funding so they can perhaps find a way to tell the story of the place in a slightly more integrated way than it felt at the moment. But as you get a yearly pass with your ticket, if we’re ever passing though Milton Keynes again in the next year I’d consider another visit to see if I could spot things we no doubt missed. I might even consider taking a picnic too…