Typewriters out, computers in

Posted on by Mike Evans

A couple of milestones this week: Brother assembled the last typewriter to be made in Britain, while over at Bletchley Park the world's oldest bootable computer, the WITCH, gets a new lease of life at the gloriously higgledy-piggledy National Museum of Computing.

The typewriter ruled the roost right up to the mid 90s when it was ousted by the personal computer and the laser printer. This is the last typewriter to leave the Brother factory in Wrexham, Wales.

The 61-year-old Harwell Dekatron computer was used originally to perform computations at the Harwell, Oxfordshire, nuclear research establishment but was out out to graze at Wolverhampton University as a teaching aid. There it became the WITCH (Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing) and served an honourable retirement.

Now it has undergone a three-year restoration in Bletchley and can be seen clanking and computing in all its electronic glory.

Imagine if today's texteens had to read punch tape. At least they are still wearing the same baggy pants. Photo courtesy of Wolverhampton Express & Star, via National Museum of Computing

I love Bletchley Park, as much for its rather chaotic, slightly amateurish approach as for the wealth of nostalgic wartime codebreaking equipment and paraphernalia. The Museum of Computing fits in well (after all, Bletchley is the home of the computer) and the largely volunteer experts are a delight to encounter. If you live in Britain then a visit to Bletchley is a must. If you are visiting the UK, Bletchley Park is within walking distance of Bletchley station and is an easy day excursion from London.

by Mike Evans, 21 November 2012

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