Colossus machine gets new gallery at Bletchley Park's National Museum of Computing

By Culture24 Reporter | 22 February 2012
A photo of the inside of an old programmable computer
Colossus is heading to a new gallery with the help of its fans© The National Museum of Computing,
Colossus, the codebreaking centrepiece of the famous headquarters where intelligence heroes deciphered messages between Hitler and his generals, will be moved into a new gallery at The National Museum of Computing, planners have announced.

The rebuilt model of Bletchley Park’s most famous exhibit – the world’s first electronic, programmable computer – is heading to the precise spot where Colossus No 9 stood during the war. Fans are also being invited to play their part by sponsoring a valve on a virtual online version of the machine.

“We want to present the rebuilt Colossus so that generations to come will be able to understand its significance” explained museum Chairman Tim Reynolds, paying tribute to Tony Sale, who rebuilt the “awe-inspiring” Colossus and helped plan the £150,000 new space before his death last year.

A photo of a man in a suit looking at an ancient computer
The late Tony Sale, the leader of the Colossus rebuild project© The National Museum of Computing,
“The museum is an independent charity, has received no lottery funding and must pay substantial rent and overheads.

“Despite working with very modest budgets, we have opened two new galleries over the past nine months and have two more, including Colossus, planned for 2012.

“We welcome all contributions from individuals and company sponsors to help us present a gallery that will do justice to Colossus and enthral visitors for years to come."

The remarkable story of the original Colossus, designed by a team led by Tommy Flowers and first used as a set of ten computers at Bletchley in 1944, will be told “dynamic new displays” under the plans.

It is widely regarded to have shortened the war by two years, although its existence remained a secret until 1975. Sale led the remake during the 1990s, forming what would become the venue’s most popular object.

“I worked with Tony Sale for more than a decade on Colossus, so to embark on this new gallery for this amazing computer is both humbling and exhilarating,” said Phil Hayes, the recently-appointed Chief Engineer for the project.
“Colossus plays a huge part in the history of electronics and computing. We aim to create a gallery to inspire future generations of computer scientists and engineers.”

The existing Colossus room at the museum is expected to be closed until early March to allow the creation of the infrastructure of the gallery.

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