Category Archives: Computing history

Royal Mail Yearbook features first programmable electronic computer

A Colossus Mark 2 computer being operated by Dorothy Du Boisson (left) and Elsie Booker (courtesy The National Archives)
A Colossus Mark 2 computer being operated by Dorothy Du Boisson (left) and Elsie Booker (courtesy The National Archives)

An in-depth article featuring the famous British World War II computer Colossus (the world’s first programmable electronic computer) and its designer Tommy Flowers (1905-1998) features in the 2015 Royal Mail Year Book that explores the year’s Special Stamp issues.

Inventive Britain Colossus Stamp
Inventive Britain Colossus Stamp

In February this year, as part of its Inventive Britain series, Royal Mail issued a special issue commemorative Colossus stamp with a special launch in the Colossus Gallery at TNMOC.

In Royal Mail’s 2015 Year Book, Tommy Flowers and Colossus are honoured again with a four-page article written by Prof Brian Randell of Newcastle University about the development of the code-breaking computer, the secrecy surrounding it, the eventual disclosure of its existence to the public in 1975 and Tony Sale’s subsequent tribute to it in the form of the Colossus Rebuild at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) at Bletchley Park near Milton Keynes, England.

Thomas 'Tommy' Harold Flowers, MBE, c1940s
Thomas ‘Tommy’ Harold Flowers, MBE, c1940s

Kenneth Flowers, son of Tommy Flowers, told TNMOC: “It is very gratifying to see that Colossus and my father’s contribution is becoming increasingly recognised. As my father always said, Colossus was a team effort, so I do hope that the families of all those involved in t he creation of Colossus feel as pleased as we do by this latest tribute.”

Tim Reynolds, Chairman of TNMOC, said: “For so many years the incredible achievements of Tommy Flowers and his team had to be kept secret, so it is now very satisfying to see widening recognition. People like Professor Brian Randell, whose researches led to the public disclosure of the existence of Colossus in the 1970s, and Tony Sale, who headed up the Colossus Rebuild team, have helped reveal the amazing story and ensure that future generations can be inspired by the astonishing feat of the deciphering of Hitler’s most secret cipher.”

You can read Brian Randell’s article here.


Information courtesy The National Museum of Computing.


REVIVAL’s Winter gaming event will warm you up!

Revival banner
Revival banner from the big 2014 event

Retro gamers and retro computer fans in the UK looking for one last fix before Santa calls have an important event to look forward to this year – the REVIVAL Winter Warmer 2015!

This new event, over the weekend 28-29 November,  marks the long-awaited return of Britain’s best dedicated retrogaming event to the Midlands, and as the name suggests, is expected to be a precursor to the organisers’ return to full scale in 2016!

The Winter Warmer, although it will be on a smaller scale than the show we covered back in August last year, will still be packed with plenty of the usual REVIVAL flavour with, according to the organisers:

“…over sixty consoles and computers, multiplayer gaming, on-stage competitions, the best in retro-related traders, well-priced food and alcohol and best of all for this smaller event, we are still cramming over 45 arcade and pinball machines into the event space to ensure our unrivalled ‘arcade ambience’ atmosphere!”

The Winter Warmer will be at a new venue, Brookfields Leisure Centre, Wolverhampton, WV10 7LZ, and tickets are booking now:

Becky and Craig turner get retro
Becky and Craig turner get retro

Ever-enthusiastic REVIVAL head honcho Craig Turner of Turnarcade fame, goes on:

“The success of this show will determine what we bring to 2016, so be sure to come along if you’ve never been before or if you’re a show regular, squeeze in this one last date to see out 2015 and support the full-scale return of the UK’s best dedicated independent retro-gaming event! Tickets are on sale now and already half sold, so with just 6 weeks to go, grab yours NOW to avoid disappointment!”


You can download a poster in jpg format by clicking on the smaller image below.

Revival Winter Warmer poster

Event coverage

Retro Computing News is aiming to cover the Winter Warmer on the Sunday, as our editor Stuart Williams is committed to attending a horror anthology book launch in nearby Walsall on the Saturday, because he has a story in it! Hope to see you there!

Further info

October Half Term at the Centre for Computing History

Half-term is bound to be fun at the Centre for Computing History!
Half-term is bound to be fun at the Centre for Computing History! (pic CCH)

The Centre for Computing History are delighted to announce that they will be open every day for the duration of October Half Term (24th October – 1st November) 2015.

As well as their usual exhibits, the Cambridge-based museum are also running a fantastic range of educational workshops over this period, as follows – click on the headings for full details and booking on the museum’s website:

Electronics Lab: Build a Message Wand

26 October 2015, 11am

Game On: The Guided Tour!

26 October 2015, 2pm

Big Trak Challenge

27 October 2015, 11am

Build Your Own Adventure Game

27 October 2015, 2pm

Learn to Code

28 October 2015, 10.30am


Power Play!

28 October 2015, 2pm


Bug Your Bedroom

29 October 2015, 11am


Power Play!

29 October 2015, 2pm

Scratch and Pi

30 October 2015, 11am


Power Play!

30 October 2015, 2pm


If you have any queries, you can get in touch with the Centre for Computing History at, by phone on 01223 214446 or via their Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages (click icons below).

The Centre’s website is:

And their address is:

Centre for Computing History
Rene Court
Coldhams Road

Facebook Twitter Google Plus


Visit Recursion 2015 this Saturday!

Part of King Edward Vi School
Part of King Edward Vi School

A great little show for computer fans with retro, hobby and education computing interests is ready to RUN this Saturday in Stratford-upon-Avon, England – at Shakespeare’s school!

The Recursion 2015 computer science fair is taking place in The Levi Fox Hall at the King Edward Vi School in Church Street on 4 July, 11am – 4pm, and judging by the final exhibition plan released today (click image below for larger version) should be a cracking event – and what’s more, admission is FREE!

In fact, we like the look of it so much that our editor, Stuart Williams, will be covering Recursion 2015 in person for Retro Computing News!

Recursion 2015 floor plan (courtesy Recursion)
Recursion 2015 floor plan (courtesy Recursion)

For more information on the exhibitors and what’s happening at the event, read our recent preview of Recursion 2015 and check out the event website. Download the event programme in pdf form via this link.

Amiga, Acorn, RiscOS, Retro computing and Raspberry Pi fans in particular have much to look forward to, whether you’re into hardware, software or coding – as does anyone interesting in computing education and employment, making stuff – and robotics!

There’ll be exhibitors from universities to user groups, via museums and business – as well as student-led workshops. Something, in fact, for geeks of all ages.

IF you can get there, THEN GOTO it – it looks like a great computing day out – with added Shakespeare!

Cambridge computing history lecture next week

Dr Andrew Herbert (pic Wolfson College)
Dr Andrew Herbert (pic Wolfson College)

The latest talk in the Wolfson @ 50: Fiftieth Anniversary Lecture Series at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, England is set to take place next Wednesday, 17 June 2015.

The distinguished lecturer, Dr Andrew Herbert, Emeritus Fellow of the College, will be speaking in Lee Hall, Wolfson College, on the fascinating topic ’50 years of Computing – A Cambridge Perspective’, between 18:0018:50.

When Wolfson was founded, computers were large, expensive machines only used by a privileged few. In this the College’s 50th anniversary year we are surrounded by computers, most of which are seen as essential, everyday consumer items. Dr Herbert will tell the story of how Cambridge has contributed to the evolution of the computer from the mainframe to the cloud and offer a view on what the next 50 years might hold.

To take his audience back to 1965, Dr Herbert hopes to be able to demonstrate a working Elliott minicomputer from the mid 1960s – the kind of machine on which he first learned to program in 1970. The size of two chest freezers, weighing over 300kg and costing the equivalent of £200,000 at present day prices, the 903 has a tiny fraction of the memory and computing power of a modern Raspberry Pi computer.

Continue reading Cambridge computing history lecture next week

Still time to donate to Project Odyssey

Curator Jason Fitzpatrick, left, with Simon Galbraith of Redgate Software (pic: Centre for Computing History)
Curator Jason Fitzpatrick, left, with Simon Galbraith of Redgate Software (pic: Centre for Computing History)

One of the UK’s top computer museums has almost reached the destination of its latest fundraising effort – but you can still contribute if you donate by 10 April 2015!

Following presentations from the museum’s trustees and the launch of the new fundraising campaign – Odyssey – by museum patron Dr Hermann Hauser on 10 March by the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, England, Simon Galbraith, CEO of Redgate Software (pictured above), threw down “a symbolic gauntlet” – and the response so far has been, according to the museum, “wonderful”.

Back in March the invited audience held their breath as Simon issued the challenge: “Redgate Software will match every pound donated to this appeal, up to £100,000, in the next 30 days.”

What’s the campaign all about? Well, the Centre is hoping to raise £110,000 to complete the refurbishment of its main gallery and create a new core exhibition – Tech Odyssey: a learning adventure – which will chart the global impact of the computing revolution.

Curator, Jason Fitzpatrick, explains: “In its present condition this building fails to do justice to the richness and variety of our collection. Although visitors can see, touch and use many of the ‘superstar’ machines of the 70s, 80s and 90s, we lack the funds needed to create an exhibition that charts how each of these computers represents a step towards the small, powerful, multi-purpose devices most of us use today.

(pic: Centre for Computing History)
(pic: Centre for Computing History)

“Refurbishment of the gallery and creation of a new exhibition, Odyssey, will help us tell the inspirational and epic story of the computing revolution to anyone – young and old, techie and non-geek alike.

Continue reading Still time to donate to Project Odyssey

Cambridge computer history to benefit from Heritage Lottery Fund

Entrance to the Centre for Computing History (courtesy CCH)
Entrance to the Centre for Computing History (courtesy CCH)

One of the UK’s largest museums in its field, the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, England has announced that it has ‘downloaded’ a substantial £85,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to support a vitally important historical project: Viva Computer! A People’s History of Home Computing. 

Computers have transformed our modern world; innovations in home and professional computing have irreversibly changed our ways of thinking, from communicating and organising, to work, life, and play! Many people access computers in their daily lives, but few know about the inspiring and remarkable technological breakthroughs and stories behind the development of the machines, the software and the games they use.

Increasing understanding

The fast-paced nature of the computing industry, along with its tendency to discard irrelevant technology as soon as it becomes outdated, means that the heritage around its origins and subsequent developments is at risk of being lost.  The Centre for Computing History aims to preserve this fundamental part of our heritage and ensure it is valued, celebrated and secured for posterity.

The Rene Court, Coldhams Road-based educational charity and not-for-profit company, which opened its current premises in August 2013, has the core purpose of increasing understanding of developments in computing over the past sixty years by exploring the social, cultural and historical impact of the Information Age.

L to R: Christopher Curry, Iain Sinclair, Sir Clive Sinclair, CCH Director – Jason Fitzpatrick, CCH Projects - Jane Phillimore, CCH Communications - Elaine Symonds  at a Sinclair celebration weekend held at CCH earlier this year (courtesy CCH)
L to R: Christopher Curry, Iain Sinclair, Sir Clive Sinclair, CCH Director – Jason Fitzpatrick, CCH Projects – Jane Phillimore, CCH Communications – Elaine Symonds at a Sinclair celebration weekend held at CCH earlier this year (courtesy CCH)
 Silicon Fen

Known locally and to many hobbyists and computing professionals as ‘Silicon Fen’, Cambridge has been, for many years, a home to global advances in technology – including some of the most important companies and innovators of the British ‘home computer revolution’ of the 1980s-90s and those that followed – but there has been no systematic attempt to preserve this rich heritage. Viva Computer! will redress this need and uncover  the memories of the past. Focusing on the people, technological breakthroughs, computers and businesses that created, developed and sustained the ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’ – the funding announced will bring these stories to life for a present day audience.

Making history

Volunteers, trained and managed by two part-time staff, will learn practical heritage skills including how to research, record and develop a compelling history of home computing in the Cambridge area from the 1960s, and explore its relevance for today in ways that are educational and engaging.

The heritage will be shared in meaningful, exciting ways through a freely available digital archive, wide-ranging learning resources, and an end festival with events and workshops.

Time to capture the magic before it fades

Commenting on the award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Jason Fitzpatrick, director at the Centre for Computing History said:

“We are delighted and deeply grateful to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund for this important and timely project.

“There is a real need to capture the memories of industry pioneers, or their stories risk being lost forever. Many active members of the vibrant tech community are now aged in their 70s and 80s. Viva Computer! provides the opportunity to share their stories and make them publicly available.

“The over-arching aim of the project is to help people capture the ‘magic’, to engage with the industry’s heritage and history of innovation, and come to a better understanding of the most important cultural development of the last 100 years.”


Stuart Hobley, Development Manager for Heritage Lottery Fund said:

“It is always thrilling to revisit the video games of your childhood… and this project is about so much more! This is a really exciting project that will reveal the history behind technology we often take for granted. Thanks to Lottery players’ money, we can now all learn more about the lives of those remarkable local visionaries who brought computer technology into our everyday world.”

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help to build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage.

In the East of England, HLF has awarded more than £400m to over 3,500 projects,

The Centre at the heart of Silicon Fen
Former chairman of Microsoft Research, Cambridge, Andrew Herbert with a young visitor to the museum (courtesy CCH)
Former chairman of Microsoft Research, Cambridge, Andrew Herbert with a young visitor to the museum (courtesy CCH)

The Centre for Computing History (CCH) has an internationally significant collection of vintage home computers, memorabilia, artefacts, documents and hands-on displays – in total about 24,000 items.

The core collection consists of 800 historic computers including an Altair 8800, usually considered the first home computer, as well as mobile phones, games consoles and calculators.

The Centre is currently developing two new Cambridge-related archives: a Sinclair collection and an Acorn collection.

See for more information.

Swindon Museum of Computing children’s events

Museum of Computing logo

Loads of fun for all the family is programmed for the Museum of Computing in Swindon, Wiltshire this weekend!

Summer Activities

In the last of this month’s Children’s summer activities, the Museum, which is in Theatre Square, opens its doors on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 August for a  Codes and Ciphers Treasure Hunt! Can you crack the 6 coded messages, find the hidden treasure in the museum and claim your prize?

All activities are free, but standard museum admission charges apply (adult admission £2, children £1, concessions £1.50 and families £5).

The Museum

The Museum of Computing opens its doors on Fridays and Saturdays and offers a fascinating glimpse into a subject that many of us can’t help but connect with.

Although it provides a serious record of serious computing, as you might expect, the Museum of Computing is also high on nostalgia. Many exhibits are devoted to home computing, so you are likely to encounter a few old ‘friends’ in the shape of games consoles and primitive PCs.

The Museum of Computing offers educational opportunities for all ages with Saturday morning computer club for children. There is a waiting list for these sessions so please contact the Museum of Computing on

Continue reading Swindon Museum of Computing children’s events