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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 July 2007, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
UK computer history gets new home
Colossus, BBC
Colossus broke communications between high-ranking German officers
Plans are taking shape to set up a museum that celebrates Britain's role in the origins of the digital age.

The National Museum of Computing will be based at Bletchley Park where World War II code breakers built the first recognisably modern computers.

The museum's centrepiece is the rebuilt Colossus computer that broke high-level German communications during WWII.

The museum's founders are seeking funds and backers to exhibit more machines from its extensive collection.

Working history

Set up in partnership with the Bletchley Park Trust the museum aims to become a showcase that will let visitors stroll through the history of early computers.

"I cannot think of a better place than Bletchley to put the museum," said Andy Clark, one of the founders of the Trust trying to establish the museum. "It's a key part of the modern history of the computer."

The museum's Trust has leased several buildings for its collection at Bletchley, including Block H where Colossus No. 9 was sited during WWII.

Mr Clark stressed that the museum would not simply be rooms full of old machines in glass cases.

Tony Sale, Stephen Fleming
Tony Sale has spent 14 years re-building Colossus
"This is not a museum of computers but of computing," he said. Every machine on display would be restored to show how it worked, said Mr Clark.

"Where else would you be able to surf the net on a machine from 1976?" he said.

According to Tony Sale, another Trust founder and who has led the Colossus re-build project, the Museum has "800 square metres" of historically important computers to put on show.

Machines in the collection include a DEC PDP 8, an Elliott 803, several ICL mainframes, air traffic control terminals and a variety of early desktop machines.

The highlight of the collection was the rebuilt Colossus Mark 2 that Tony Sale has spent the last 14 years re-building using photos and wiring diagrams scavenged from engineers who worked on the original.

Mr Clark said the Trust was seeking funds of 250,000 to safeguard the future of this collection and realise its plans to put on show the most significant computers in the collection.

In total, said Mr Clark, about 6m would be needed to create an institution that could do justice to the UK's role in the early days of the computer.

The Museum gets an unofficial opening on 12 July 2007 when the British Computer Society stages a conference at Bletchley on the history of early computers and efforts to preserve them.

The Museum also plans to make some money by restoring old computers for other museums around the world but, said Mr Clark, most of the funding would have to be found from other sources.

Without more funds and backing, said Mr Clark, there was a danger that the early history of the computer age would be lost.

Codebreaker machine gets new home
21 Aug 05 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
New display tells Bletchley story
11 Jun 04 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Return of Colossus marks D-Day
01 Jun 04 |  Technology
Honour for wartime codebreakers
30 Nov 04 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts

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