ELITE Summer event: Bletchley Park

Thursday 10 May 2007

10.45 - 15.00

The Mansion, Bletchley Park, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, MK3 6EB

Tony Sale, Programme Director of the re-build of Colossus.
John Harper, Director of the Bombe rebuild.


On Thursday May 10th we have arranged a visit to Bletchley Park, home to the world-famous codebreakers of WWII.

The timing of this visit is very appropriate, as the 13-year project to rebuild the Colossus electronic computer is due to complete in May. Colossus joins the already reconstructed Bombe electro-mechanical calculator in re-creating the innovative technological breakthroughs achieved at Bletchley during the war.

Elite is very fortunate in having as its hosts for the tour two of the leading figures in this reconstruction:

  • Tony Sale, Director of the Colossus rebuild program. Tony, together with his wife Margaret, was also instrumental in securing the future of Bletchley Park as part of this country’s heritage when it was proposed to be sold as a housing estate in 1991, and in opening it for visits by the public.
  • John Harper, Director of the Bombe rebuild

The visit program will commence at 11:15 (registration from 10:45). It will commence with an introductory talk by Tony Sale, followed by an external tour of the Park, including the famous Huts, which will take until around 12:30. After lunch the tour will move on to Colossus and its role in cracking Lorenz (the German High Command’s code during the war), and a demonstration of the reconstructed Bombe, which was instrumental in cracking the various Enigma codes used by the German armed forces.

The visit will end at around 3:00, after which delegates will be free to view other exhibits in the expanding exhibitions at the Park.

This is a rare opportunity to see and to hear about these exceptional technical innovations from very authoritative experts.

Spaces are inevitably limited, and will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

The cost includes refreshments on arrival, a buffet lunch, and refreshments at the end of the tour.

Please note that there is a car parking charge of £3 at the venue.

Tony Sale

Tony Sale’s career started in the Royal Air Force in 1949 and culminated in his starting, in 1993, the project to rebuild the famous Colossus computer developed at Dollis Hill in 1943 for Bletchley Park.

His interest in computers began in the early 1960’s. He has worked for a wide variety of organisations including Marconi and MI5 (where for a period he was a colleague of Peter Wright, of ‘Spycatcher’ fame). He has started up three of his own companies; he has been employed by the Science Museum as Manager of the Computer Restoration Project; and he was appointed Museums Director at Bletchley Park in 1994.

Tony has authored papers on computers, published “Colossus 1943 -1996” in 1998 and given a series of lectures worldwide on World War II code breaking to various groups, including the British Computer Society.

His work has been recognised externally with an award in 1998 of the Comdex IT Personality of the Year and in 2000 the Royal Society of Scotland awarded him the Silver Medal for the rebuilding of Colossus. Further recognition for his work has included numerous television interviews, and acting as advisor to the films “Breaking the Code” and “Enigma”.

His personal interests include: fencing, in which he competed at county and national levels; hill climbing; motor cars (he still owns his first car, a 1937 MG sports car); and engineering being competent in metal, wood and electronics.

John Harper

John has spent a lifetime’s career in electronics. He learnt very much ‘from the ground up’, starting as a tester for a firm that manufactured, refurbished and repaired and military equipment, and joining ICT as a field engineer in 1962.

Having left grammar school with good ‘O’ levels to join the family firm (in farming), he continued his education through seven years of night school, qualifying for membership of the BCS and the (then) IERE, and achieving Chartered Engineer status.

John’s field engineering career at ICT encompassed working on such diverse equipment as the Powers SAMAS PCC, the RCA301 (ICT 1500), and the 1900, and included a period at ICT Central Support in Letchworth.

His increasing interest in (and influence on) design led him to being appointed to the design team in ICL Stevenage where, amongst other things, he was responsible for the 2903 project, and had responsibilities for the 2950 and 2960 machines. Subsequently, he worked on the first two 3900 systems.

He became involved in Ethernet-based Local Area Networks when ICL mainframes began to become distributed across customer’s premises, connected by BT high-speed connections. He later became Technical Support Manager for computer systems controlling STC Submarine Systems Fibre Optic Submarine Cables. During this period he had transferred from ICL to STC, Nortel and finally Alcatel.

He retired from Alcatel in 1995, since when the Bombe Rebuild Project has been an almost full time (unpaid!) job.