A LEVEL Computer Science students from King’s Ely were in their element at the National Museum of Computing.

The Sixth Form students visited the museum, based at Bletchley Park, on March 23rd to learn more about the history of computers and their evolution over the last 80 years.

One of the students who went on the trip, Zinnia Morgan, said: “We not only learned about the first computer but about the history of Bletchley. During the Second World War, Bletchley was the home of the codebreakers who managed to crack both the Enigma and the Lorenz cipher. While many people have heard of the Enigma machine and its purpose during the war, the German’s Lorenz cipher is less talked about, but it was breaking this cipher that resulted in the creation of the first computer, the Colossus.

“Made by the Lorenz company, the Lorenz was used exclusively for the most important messages passed between the German army field marshals and their Central High Command in Berlin. Its size meant that it was not a portable device like Enigma. Bletchley Park codebreakers called the machine that decoded the messages ‘Tunny’ and the coded messages ‘Fish’.

“Colossus was an electronic digital computer, built during the Second World War from over 1700 valves (tubes). It was used to break the codes of the German Lorenz cipher machine alongside the ‘Tunny’. Colossus is sometimes referred to as the world’s first fixed program, digital, electronic, computer.”

Zinnia added: “Following this, we toured the rest of the museum and saw how quickly computers developed and became smaller and smaller. From being so big that people are able to fit inside them, the ENIAC (1946) for example, to being so small that computers now can fit inside people, a pacemaker for example.

“We then finished our day off by completing two workshops. In one, we attempted to code a program that worked similarly to Siri to try and make it sound as much like a human as possible and pass the Turing test. In the other, we programmed our own version of snake from a guide, just like many children would have done in the past.”

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