National Museum of Computing engineer Phil Hayes with Colossus tool kit

Escape Rooms arrive at National Museum of Computing

Image credit: Robert Dowell/National Museum of Computing

The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) in Bletchley, Milton Keynes, has announced the launch of an escape room programme, which will challenge participants to complete a series of problems inspired by the history of computing technology.

Participants must band together with their teammates to crack the problems against the pressures of a ticking clock – and rival teams – in a race to reach the finish line and escape TNMOC.

The escape room challenges are rooted in the museum’s unique collection. In order to collect and decipher clues and escape the museum, participants must grapple with historic and retro computing technology (including paper tape, punch cards and floppy disks) and solve programming and cryptography challenges.

“After a difficult 18 months of limited access to the museum, we are delighted to be able to host fun days out like our Escape Room packages,” said Jacqui Garrad, director, TNMOC. “We have received an overwhelmingly positive response from those who have trialled them and are thrilled to be opening our escape rooms to families, large groups, and anyone who wants to attend.

“We are confident our escape rooms will be able to please even the most discerning escape room hobbyist, with the added bonus of educating our escapees on the history of computing along the way.”

The basic option is the 90-minute Escape Room Challenge Package (£30pp or £55 for a pair). This includes a 15-minute mission briefing followed by the 75-minute challenge, themed on one of the four decades from the 1940s to the 1980s. Full admission to TNMOC’s collections is included. Groups of up to eight can opt for the Escape Room Experience Package (£70pp) which also includes an icebreaker “Heritage Quiz”, all-day meeting room access, a buffet lunch, and a two-hour guided tour and refreshments.

Escape room packages can be purchased from TNMOC website. Vouchers are redeemable on select dates from January 2022.

TNMOC’s displays include the oldest working digital computer; the reconstructed Bombe of the type used to help break the Enigma code, and a functioning Colossus Mark 2 computer. The museum is based in Block H on the Bletchley Park site, although it is managed as an independent charity from the Bletchley Park Trust.

In 2017, the museum started providing virtual tours such that historic computing enthusiasts can enjoy a 360° view of the museum from anywhere in the world. The virtual tour, developed by Venue View Virtual Tours, allows viewers to move around the museum using an app, inspecting the machines, their descriptions, and zooming in on points of interest. The app also provides links to further information and videos of the machines in action, such as the moment when the oldest working computer (the Harwell Dekatron, aka WITCH) was rebooted after its restoration in 2012.

The virtual tours have more recently been promoted as a Covid-safe alternative to in-person visits.

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