Yesterday I’ve been on a super trip organised by my University’s Computing&Engineering department to the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park. I’ve visited the Bletchley Park a year ago and I found it really interesting – all the Enigma machines, stories about the female codebreakers and Alan Turing. Everything was really inspiring. However, I didn’t visit the computing museum, which is right behind the Bletchley park entrance.
This time, we were lucky because we had our own private tour of the museum, with 3 lovely guides, who were extremely passionate about computing. Their careers started in the mid 60s, so they experienced a large part of the computing evolution, from huge mainframe computers and memory disks to the mobility and power we now have today. By faaar the best part of my day was the opportunity to code in Basic, on a microcomputer from 1981, which only had 32Kb of RAM and the ability to display just 4 colours: red, yellow, black and white (which are basically non-colours, but heh). We were given 28 lines of code in BASIC that would create a Snake game. If we were lucky enough not to encounter any errors, we would have to build on top of the game, adding new features, changing control keys, adding obstacles and so on. I also programmed the game so that I could never lose. It wasn’t as fun as I expected. Moreover, I think I didn’t take as much care about typing some code in my whole life. If you pressed a key like “Break” by mistake, your entire ‘work’ would be gone. When typing a new line of code, you also had to include the actual line number. And they had to be in super strict order. If you wanted to copy and paste a line, no Ctrl+C Ctrl+V, unfortunately. Arrow keys and the copy key were your friends. There wasn’t any mouse either. I can’t believe how fun it was, given all the limitations! It was back to BASICs!
I will leave you now with some of the photos I took there, not very professional, but still, they log some very interesting things I’ve been lucky to see there.
Below is the oldest operating computer in the world and on the left hand side you can see all its memory.
This is a radio station, used in the Second World War:
A British “Google Maps” from BBC, developed in the 80′s, stored on discs.
The BBC Microcomputer from 1981, with 32Kb of RAM and the lines of code written in BASIC for the Snake game: