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Video from Bletchley Park

by Richard Elen on 9 Jul, 2009

in History, Science & Technology

Here are two short video sequences shot on Spring Bank Holiday, 25 May 2009, at Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes.

Bletchley Park is an important aspect of Britain’s technological and wartime heritage, where unique machines, including the world’s first programmable computer, Colossus, were built to read German coded messages. It’s been suggested that the work at Bletchley Park shortened the war by as much as two years.

The two videos are as follows:

The Tunny machine

David Stanley, a member of the team at Bletchley Park, describes how the ‘Tunny’ emulator machine was used to decrypt high-level wartime German messages produced by the Lorenz SZ40 and SZ42 encryption units, and a little about the reconstruction of the machine at Bletchley Park.

The ‘Colossus’ was used to work out the starting positions (equivalent to the initial settings on the Lorenz machine) and then the ‘Tunny’ emulator (the name ‘Tunny’ actually applied to the traffic), the machine demonstrated here, actually decrypted the messages and printed them out on a teleprinter.

‘Tunny’ emulator at Bletchley Park from Richard Elen on Vimeo.

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The Colossus Rebuild

Tony Sale led the team that reconstructed a Colossus Mark 2 computer, which was completed in 2007 at Bletchley Park. Here he is seen describing how Colossus was used and a little about the rebuild.

The original Colossus was the world’s first programmable digital computer. Colossus machines were used by the codebreakers at Bletchley Park during WW II to help read encrypted messages and employed valves (vacuum tubes) to perform the calculations. The machines were designed by engineer Tommy Flowers with Allen Coombs, Sid Broadhurst and Bill Chandler.

The Colossus machines were used to help decrypt German messages sent using the Lorenz S40/42 machines which, unlike Enigma, had 12 setting wheels. Colossus determined the starting positions for the wheels so that the Tunny machine (see above) could decrypt the message itself.

Colossus Rebuild at Bletchley Park from Richard Elen on Vimeo.

Creative Commons License

Today, Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing that is co-sited there, need your help to survive. The establishment receives no Government funding (why?) and relies entirely on donations. Can you help? Visit Bletchley Park or its web site, and see the National Museum of Computing – for more details, click the links in this paragraph, and please help save Bletchley Park.

Please also visit Dr Sue Black’s Saving Bletchley Park Campaign site.

You can also watch video of the Bombe taken on the 26 July, 2009 Finding Ada group visit.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Gorman July 10, 2009 at 01:31

Great videos 🙂

Could I also mention Boffoonery! Comedy Benefit for Bletchley Park, which will be at the Bloomsbury Theatre on Nov 3rd?


Missus Wookie May 2, 2011 at 12:06

Thank you for these – much better than my still photos. I’ve linked from my blogpost describing our visit to Bletchley Park to yours to enable people to see your videos. Hope you don’t mind!

Les Mead July 18, 2011 at 18:02

I produced a video of the XL Association visit to Bletchley Park on 26.06.11

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