Military Computers Preserved

Several computers and associated peripherals and control panels have been rescued from the Cook Building at MoD Southwick Park (formerly HMS Dryad) which has been decommissioned.

Cook Building was home to several Royal Navy training suites where personnel underwent tactical warfare training on type 22 and type 23 frigates and type 42 destroyers.

Some of the computers used to feed emulated data to the training suite were designed in the late 60's and were fully operational right up until the closure in July 2011.

Related Link : The History of Cook Building at MoD Southwick Park (Formerly HMS Dryad)

Phil Heathcote from BAE Systems contacted three museums with a view to preserving these historically important computers. It was finally agreed that the three museums could purchase the equipment from a government disposals agency and the pressure was on for each museum to raise their 1/3rd of the £1800 purchase price as well as additional funds to cover the logistics costs.

"I am really pleased that the range of articles saved will be of use in the future, and will inform future generations of just what computing used to be like." Said Phil Heathcote.

Data Dynamics Teletype Machine and Ferranti Sonar Display
Data Dynamics Teletype Machine and Ferranti Sonar Display

The power of social media

It seemed poetic to use modern computing trends to help save these machines so The Centre for Computing History organised an online fundraising drive via Twitter and Facebook and amazingly, thanks to our fantastic friends and followers, we managed to raise the full £2300 in a matter of days.

Museum Chairman - Jason Fitzpatrick said "It's fantastic that we have such support for what we're doing. People really do feel that our computing heritage has to be preserved."

Steve Curl - Volunteer at the Centre for Computing History using the Ferranti FM1600E
Steve Curl - Volunteer at the Centre for Computing History using the Ferranti FM1600E


The project has been a fantastic opportunity to work in partnership. The money raised by The Centre for Computing History covered the cost of the equipment in full allowing us to effectively donate equipment to the Museum of Computing in Swindon and The National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park.

"There was a huge amount of computing hardware, and as you might guess, computers of this era were not small! - I don't believe any one of the museums involved could have single handedly preserved this much hardware, so it made perfect practical sense for us all to work together. I hope it is a small glimpse of what we might be able to achieve in the future." said Jason.

The Logistics

With the equipment paid for, we had the task of physically removing the computers - most of which were in the form of 6ft tall cabinets and desk sized control panels!

Magnetic Tape CabinetsThe entire operation involved 2x 7.5 tonne trucks, 5 x 3.5 tonne vans and untold numbers of cars over a period of about 3 weeks.

Richard Wood, one of the team of maintainers at the Cook Building was invaluable in helping pack and moving the equipment. He was also a mine of information when it came to providing details about what the computers were used for. Phil Heathcote and Chris Knowles of BAE Systems were also indispensible when it came to disconnecting and getting this gear on the trucks as well as providing a wealth of valuable technical documentation which will be vital when coming to the point of bringing these machines to life once again ...


A New Home(s)

The computers now have new homes at the three museums and will be on display in the near future. We have already begun the long process of cataloguing the individual items and archiving the documention for future reference ...

Jason Fitzpatrick of The Centre for Computing History with Richard Wood
Jason Fitzpatrick of The Centre for Computing History with Richard Wood

Special Thanks

We would sincerely like to thank all of those involved in the project especially Phil Heathcote for initiating the whole thing, Lt. Hernon RN, Maritime Warfare School for pushing the project through red tape, Richard Wood for his invaluable help and information, all the volunteers from each museum for the muscle and dedication to the cause, and all the maintainers at Cook Building for their help too ...
... and not forgetting the our amazing followers and friends on Facebook and Twitter. YOU made it all financially possible. THANK YOU


Date : 06-12-2011

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