Computer Science Trip to Bletchley Park

29th September 2014

An exciting visit by students of THOA to Bletchley Park, home of the National Museum of Computing, was undertaken last week to explore the history of computers, and to allow the students to explore the progress of computing since the war. Of course, it was at Bletchley that messages encoded by Enigma and Lorenz were deciphered to reveal the enemies’ plans. The deciphering of these messages was crucial to the Allies’ eventual victory. The Lorenz messages between Hitler and his generals were the most difficult messages to decipher, but at Bletchley Park, the world’s first modern computer was used to help speed up the process. And our students were able to see it operating!

During the visit the students saw computers from across the decades and tried out many of the working exhibits like the very first computer with stored memory.

Some pupils were able to play on some early game consoles and home computers. Others tried Pong and an arcade version of Pac-Man (very retro trendy).  But the best was when they tried their hands at programming actual BBC Microcomputers. A game of snake was the challenge and just look at the concentration on their faces as they tackle the problem.

Overall the day was an outstanding success with students gaining a wonderful insight in to the internal workings of computers, the different parts of a computer (inputs, outputs, processor etc) and the role of women in computing. This was topped off with a chance meeting with Mrs Dixon, an original operator of the Colossus machine that deciphered the war time messages. Some of our students were lucky enough to have a chat with Mrs Dixon to ask her what life was like at Bletchley Park.

I would thoroughly recommend a visit yourself; the academy will definitely be going back next year to enhance the learning and encourage the students to consider further study of computing.

Mr S Alderton,
Head of Computer Science, THOA