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Oxted and District History Society
Tuesday 30th October 2007.

From Bletchley Park to
the World Wide Web

Brian Shearing, a computer expert, gave an illustrated lecture to the Oxted & District History Society on ' From Bletchley Park to the World Wide Web '.

Prior to computers, various mathematicians developed systems for easy calculation. John Napier (1550-1617) invented 'Napier's Bones' and logarithms. William Oughtred (1575-1660), vicar of Albury, developed the slide-rule. Thomas Fowler (1777-1843) produced 'Fowler's Tables' and by 1840 developed a machine to calculate sums. Charles Babbage (1791-1871) developed a 'Difference Engine' and an 'Analytical Engine', mechanical calculators which were never built.

In 1938, a unit of experts moved to Bletchley Park. They aimed to crack German, Russian and Japanese coded messages. First they developed electro-mechanical machines such as Turing's 'Bombe'. The first electric, valve-based machine, was built by Tommy Flowers. Named 'Colossus', it was operational from late 1943. By 1945 there were 10 of these at Bletchley Park. They were not all destroyed as stated by Churchill. Two went to GCHQ and were operating until 1960. However 'Colossus' lacked memory. Freddie Williams and Thomas Kilbury developed the Williams-Kilbury memory tube in 1946. By 1950 there were 5 computers with memory when the first American computer was built. In 1969, Donald Davies invented 'packet-switching', a development necessary for e-mail. The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in the 1970s.

Lecture given by Brain Shearing at
Oxted United Reformed Church,
Bluehouse Lane, Oxted