Colossus and the WITCH at The National Museum of Computing

The lovely Steve Colgan and I had a great visit to The National Museum of Computing last week. We were given a fab tour of all the museum by the very knowledgable Kevin Murrell. Just check out a few of the fabulous computing history artefacts on display there. Its like a trip down memory lane and beyond for anyone who has been involved in computing.

We saw the Harwell Dekatron or WITCH, the oldest working computer in the world.

What a beautiful machine, with a fabulously relaxing sound as it runs. Here’s a Vine short video of it running:

What do you think? Isn’t it fabulous? :)


All of the machines at the museum have been restored with tender loving care by an army of dedicated volunteers.

It is a treasure trove of computing history. The piece de resistance at The National Museum of Computing has to be Tony Sale and his team’s rebuild of Colossus: the world’s first programmable digital computer. It is an absolute masterpiece. Invented and built during WW2 by genius post office engineer Tommy Flowers at Dollis Hill in London to mechanise the codebreaking process.



I really enjoyed getting a close up look at the valves. They are so beautiful.



Here’s a link to a short Vine video of Colossus running:
Love it!

The National Museum of Computing is based at Bletchley Park near Milton Keynes, north of London. The fast train from Euston Station in London takes only 36 minutes, its a great place for a day trip. It is usually open on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 12-4pm. Check here for details before you travel:

It would be great to hear about other computing history museums from around the world. Do tell me about your favourite computing museum with a link below in the comments. I’d love to hear about computer history museums from around the world:) I’ve visited the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, several times, which is great too. I absolutely loved their working model of Babbage’s Difference Engine. Unfortunately I can’t find a pic or video of it, so here’s a pic of their fab geek badges instead


It’s so important for us to look after and showcase our computing heritage. Computers and computing have changed, and are changing, rapidly. Look at the way 8Mgb was stored in the first photo above in the 1970s, and think about the size of 8Mgb storage on a mobile phone today. What a massive difference!

Do visit TNMOC if you get the chance, and if you would like to help them with their work make a donation through their website. All donations are doubled by matched funding from a generous sponsor.

Kickass Coaching

I’ve had so many challenges in my life: a dysfunctional family, violent partner, poverty, emotional abuse, single parent with 3 kids, and that’s all before I hit 25 ;)

I’m not alone. Everyone has challenges, we all get them. The critical success factor in life is not how many challenges we get, but how we deal with them. I’m a firm believer in keeping a positive attitude and keep on going thru till you get to the other side.

Although I believe that, I’ve also spent a lot of time beating myself up for not being perfect. I’ve spent much too much of my life worrying about things, often needlessly, when with a bit of a nudge in the right direction I could have just moved on and thru whatever negative emotions I was feeling.

I’ve spoken to so many women in tech over the last 20 years who have struggled similarly with negativity for a myriad of reasons. I’ve informally coached and mentored many of them, and some have coached and mentored me. I’ve enjoyed and valued both.

Meeting executive coach Aly King Smith a few months ago and chatting to her about building confidence in mums helped me to realise that I really enjoy coaching other women and would like to do it more formally. So, I bit the bullet and took a CTI Coaching course recently which really opened my eyes to how powerful coaching can be. All of us on the course saw how incredible deep and meaningful positive change can happen thru coaching, and sometimes in quite a short space of time.

I’ve set up Kickass Coaching to provide a confidential one to one coaching service for women in tech. All sessions can be In person or via Skype tailored to your needs. More details on the Kickass Coaching website. I look forward to hearing from you…

1922: Why I Quit Being So Accommodating

Sue Black:

Interesting and thought provoking…

Originally posted on Mike Cane’s xBlog:

Update: See this post for a free ePub eBook version of this long post.

A very odd essay from a 1922 issue of The American Magazine that seems to go against the general grain of most of the articles published then. There is also no name attached to it.


Why I Quit Being So Accommodating

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my retirement from the business of being a Good Fellow. I use the word “business” advisedly. Until five years ago, if the city directory had told the truth, it would have listed after my name, as my real occupation, something like, “General Attender to Things,” or “Pinch Hitter,” or “Fine Old Scout.” I hope I am entitled in some measure to these designations even to-day. But I have quit being an accommodator and nothing else.

View original 3,786 more words

Unbound and #drinkingaboutmuseums

I had a great evening this evening at two unrelated events. The first was Salena Godden’s book launch party near the Tower of London for her book Springfield Road.

It was good to catch up with Bill Thompson there, plus assorted Unbounders. I was introduced to and had a quick chat with Dominic Frisbee, also an Unbound author, who’s book Life after the state sounds interesting.
Second do of the night was the wonderful Mar Dixons #drinkingaboutmuseums made all the more wonderful because my lovely friend Silvia was there, all the way from Indiana 😃❤️😢


Happy Birthday Ruby Bridges – 6 year old girls can change the world!

Thank you Ruby Bridges for your bravery. 6 year olds *can* change the world. We should be teaching all of our children in school about Ruby, about other brave #changemakers  and telling our children that they can do it too….

From Bounce TV:

Ruby Bridges, the little girl who desegregated our nation’s schools, turns 60 today. At just 6 years old, Bridges was the unofficial poster child of school desegregation and was the first African-American child in the South to live out the Supreme Court decision of “Brown v. the Board of Education,” which struck down the segregation of schools as unconstitutional. Iconic images chronicle this watershed moment in history, where she was escorted in the building by several U.S. marshals to attend school for the day. Once Bridges entered into the school, her reality persisted—spending most of her first year at William Frantz Elementary in New Orleans as the only child in the classroom. Today her name and her bravery are honored. And her valor is forever captured by historical images we’ll never forget.‪#‎Bouncers‬, feel free to wish Happy Birthday to one our youngest brave hearts of the Civil Rights Movement, Ruby Bridges.

Original post Bounce TV here


To me empowering our children to be brave is so much more important than passing any exams. Passion, excitement and the confidence to believe you can make change happen are the qualities we should be focusing on as they not only empower us as individuals but combined are the only way to create a better life for us all.

Ruby Bridges now

Ruby Bridges now

Thanks to Gary Day Ellison for sharing the link on Facebook from Bounce TV about Ruby Bridges All pics from Bounce TV.


Kickass #techmums training at An Cosan in Ireland

#techmums went international this week as we flew over to An Cosan college in Tallaght, Dublin to train 6 new kickass #techmums trainers. Liz Waters, principal at An Cosan, had seen me keynote the Future Jobs Forum in Dublin earlier this year and connected with me afterwards to find out more about #techmums and what we were doing.
We were greeted at Dublin airport by a very friendly taxi driver and taken to Maldren Hotel in Tallaght.

Avril from An Cosan kindly took us out for a lovely dinner on the first night. I loved the whole story about how An Cosan college was set up 27 years ago by two women, in their own houses. They wanted to help women in the deprived local area get an education with the view of changing their lives for the better. This really resonated with me as that is what I have done with my own family and with #techmums.

The next morning Avril kindly picked us up and took us to An Cosan. We didn’t have much of an idea what to expect, so were totally overwhelmed when we got there to find everyone so wonderfully kind, friendly and welcoming. After a welcome cup of tea we started off the day in the usual An Cosan way with a poem read by the principal Liz Waters. We were all sat around a large table as Liz read the poem, listening and focusing our eyes on the lovely candle and flowers in the middle.

We all then introduced ourselves around the room. As we went around the room and everyone spoke I became overcome with emotion and started crying. I’ve never before felt so in tune with a whole group of people that I’ve only just met. What a very special place An Cosan is, full of incredible women who have come from hardship to change not only their lives but the lives of many others around them.
When we had finished our introductions and had a break before starting our training I got everyone together for a #selfie 😃

We had a great first day getting to know each other and taking everyone through our #techmums train the trainer program. At the end of the first day Aly, Mary and I were elated and exhausted at the same time.

Along with the wonderful Sinead who is our #techmums champion at An Cosan we got a taxi into Dublin to meet more fabulous women for dinner. Dinner at Peyton and Byrne was delicious; our waitress was French and awesome. She thought that our #techmums tshirts said #technomums and wanted to come out to a techno club with us after dinner 😉

All the women at dinner were fabulous in their own way and all keen to support, champion and encourage women in tech: Ann O’Dea from Silicon Republic, Eithne Harley from Accenture Ireland and Liz Waters principal of An Cosan. It was a great evening of excitement and putting the world to rights.
We went home at the end of the evening feeling excited and hopeful about getting disadvantaged women into tech and changing the world.
The next morning we went into An Cosan again for the second day of our program.

An Cosan must be the friendliest place I’ve ever been to. Every single person there exudes welcome and friendliness, its incredible. Every day at break time Aisling would welcome us with tea, coffee and freshly made scones that were absolutely to die for.

Day 2 had started with Sinead reading us a wonderful poem by Nelson Mandela and playing some music.

I’m so delighted that Sinead is going to be running #techmums at An Cosan. She is a perfect combination of intelligence, humour and caring that I’m sure will enable #techmums at An Cosan to fly producing many kickass savvy #techmums for years to come.

At the end of day 2 of our training we held our graduation ceremony with Sinead, Eithne, Donna, Laingo, Valerie and Angela all graduating, becoming An Cosan’s very own team of kickass, savvy #techmums trainers.

All of them great role models in themselves for the women of Tallaght. I’m proud to have met and spent time with them.
We were very sad to leave An Cosan at the end of the day, but are already looking forward to going back to work on partnership opportunities. Completely like minded people are hard to find, and finding a whole organisation full of them is a life changing experience.

We left after a quick #selfie with Sinead and Aisling, got in our taxi and were off to the airport.

The flight home was quick, arriving at Heathrow as the sun was setting.

Thank you Ann O’Dea for inviting me to speak at the Future Jobs Forum in Dublin earlier this year, thank you Eithne Harley for telling Liz Waters from An Cosan to come and listen to my talk there. Thank you Liz for inviting us to An Cosan, thank you Sinead for being a kickass #techmums ambassador and leader and to all of our new kickass savvy #techmums trainers at An Cosan: Eithne, Donna, Laingo, Valerie and Angela. We are so delighted to have you on board 😃




BBC interview at Bletchley Park and TNMOC

Yesterday was busy, and a lot of fun. The morning was spent travelling up to Bletchley Park and being interviewed outside by the BBC’s Adam Fleming and Simon about crowdfunding, the future of publishing and my book Saving Bletchley Park. It was a really fun interview that ended up with Simon recording close up audio of me knitting. Why knitting? Well one of the perks of my crowdfunded book, the one that sold out first included a pair of socks handknitted by me. Here are Adam, Simon and my daughter Leah, and the socks that I’ve just started knitting.


When the interview was over we went up to The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park to say hi and to see their new exhibitions. There are so many!

I saw the locked gates and fence that have been put up by Bletchley Park for the first time. I have to admit it was very upsetting to see them.




I was amazed by all the work that has been carried out at TNMOC. Lots of new exhibitions since I was last there including the women in computing exhibition featuring some real female tech heroes like Steve Shirley, Grace Hopper and Barbara Liskov. I was a bit disappointed that Turing Award winner and friend Fran Allen was not included, and that Steve was the only UK hero but, that aside it was really great to see so many women represented at Bletchley.




My daughter Leah had a go on several of the very cool vintage games and on the new Oculus Rift virtual Bletchley Park. An awesome project led by Chris Monk at TNMOC to create 1940s Bletchley Park for anyone to interact with. The project has only just started, but is looking great already with a virtual Colossus and the maze, complete with hidden Easter Eggs, that used to exist at Bletchley. Very cool and exciting, and needing funding.

It was fun to see Rory Cellan-Jones at TNMOC too, there to record BBC TechTent, taking pics of virtual Bletchley too. Chaperoning Rory was Helen Armfield who it was really great to meet IRL after knowing each other on Twitter for ages.


Helen told me that @documentally’s awesome social media meetup Station X is now running from TNMOC which is great news. If you live in the Bletchley area and want to meet up with likeminded geeks I highly recommend it.

I also had a great chat with Lin Jones, another of the very knowledgeable and dedicated people at TNMOC.

After lots of fun at TNMOC we headed back to London for another with Analia Plaza interview for Eldiario which was also a lot of fun.

After the interview we made our way down to my son and daughter in law’s place in south London for dinner. I wish I’d taken a photo of that, it was so delicious, dahl and rice, my absolute all time favourite meal.

We walked through Bunhill Fields Cemetery dating from 1665 as a cut through to the bus stop, I was amazed to find several famous people buried there including William Blake and Daniel Defoe. Incredible to find that just over the road from Google Campus in London’s Tech City.

We changed buses at the monument and took a couple of pics there too.

All in all it was a great day. You will be able to hear the BBC interview “Publishing Wars” on “The report” next Thursday at 8pm on BBC Radio 4.







Dunster Castle – a fabulous day out

We had a fabulous day out at Dunster Castle this week. From the cook and butler’s tour of the Victorian/1920s kitchens to the wonderful library, antique quilted and knitted bedspreads, beautiful gardens and working watermill there really was something for everyone. One of my best days out ever. Thanks to all the staff and especially the volunteers for such a great experience. We even saw a flypast by the Red Arrows as we left 😃