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4 Extra at Bletchley Park

Maggie Philbin traces the remarkable history of IT through the BBC sound archives from the birthplace of the world's first electronic computer, Bletchley Park.

When Maggie joined the BBC's Tomorrow's World team in the early 1980s, there wasn't a single computer in the office. Today, along with the internet, they've reshaped the way we live, work, communicate and play. Her selection features:

* Magic Moments - Computers:
1994 was incredibly, a year when there were still only 623 websites in the world. This is a potted history of computers as seen 20 years ago.

* Mothers of Invention: Ada Lovelace:
Jerome Vincent's short drama from 2002 about the Victorian technology visionaries Lovelace and Charles Babbage.

* Electronic Brains: LEO the Lyons Computer:
Famed for it's "nippy" waitresses - how catering company J Lyons became Britain's unlikely post-war teashop IT pioneers. From 2001.

* The Levin Interview
Bernard Levin interrogates Sir Clive Sinclair, the man who brought computers into our homes. From 1984.

* Electric Journeys:
Tim Berners-Lee, a revealing portrait of the man credited with creating the World Wide Web. From 2001

* I Was a Teenage Dot Com Millionaire:
A classic tale of dot com boom and bust. From 2010.

Three denizens of the digital world - authors Aleks Krotoski and Tom Chatfield, plus Chris Monk from the National Museum of Computing join Maggie at Bletchley Park. There's also a peak behind the scenes with authors Michael Smith and Joel Greenburg revealing how the Buckinghamshire site could have been the UK's very own Silicon Valley.

Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra by Pier Productions.

First broadcast in November 2013.

Release date:

3 hours

Last on

Sat 12 Sep 2015 19:00

Maggie Philbin on Bletchley Park

Maggie Philbin on Bletchley Park

Some things simply can't be counted as work and a trip to Bletchley Park in any circumstances is one of them. I hope this programme which raids the BBC archive to see how we reported the story of IT captures something of the atmosphere of the place. Look out for the moment when we feel our way gingerly by torchlight along a pigeon infested corridor in one deserted building where so many clever heads combined to crack codes and save thousands of lives during WW2.

The history of computing isn't just about room sized computers shrinking to fit into the palm of your hand but  extraordinary men and women from Ada Lovelace to Clive Sinclair to Tim Berners-Lee and our attitude to their pioneering work at the time.

When I joined the BBC's Tomorrow's World team in the early 1980's, there wasn't a single computer in the office. In 1994 there were only 623 websites in the world. Today, along with the internet, they have come to reshape the way we live, work, communicate and play. I hope you enjoy this special three-hour broadcast from Bletchley Park as much we all enjoyed making it.


(Photo: Maggie Philbin at Bletchley Park) 

The Enigma machine

The Enigma machine

The German military used the Enigma cipher machine during World War 2 to keep their communications secret. By breaking the Enigma ciphers, the Allies gained a key advantage, which, according to historians, shortened the war by two years and saving many lives.



(Photo: The Enigma machine - at Bletchley Park)

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