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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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