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Cambridge, England. History & Property potential

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Cambridge, England. History & Property potential


Turing, Hauser, Sinclair – haunt computing's Cambridge A-team stamping ground From Acorns to bedrooms



26 Sep 2016 at 09:59,

Geek's Guide to Britain

King’s Parade in Cambridge looks like the last street on earth to have anything to do with computing. On one side is an absurdly ornate college gatehouse in yellow stone and King’s College Chapel, which combines the barn-like shape of a tiny chapel with the scale and detail of a cathedral.

The other side is lined by tall higgledy-piggledy buildings, housing the likes of an old-fashioned sweet shop and a tea room.

Yet King’s Parade is arguably computing’s first street: the concept was invented by a man working in the college behind that gatehouse.

The world’s first general purpose stored-program computer was built a few hundred yards away. A company based in one of those higgledy-piggledy buildings laid the foundations for much of Britain’s IT industry; its greatest rival, the descendent of which has just been sold for £24bn, was based on the square behind.


Cambridge has centuries of history and this tends to obscure the modern bits, making the city’s immense contribution to computing either invisible or hard to spot. This Geek’s Guide walking tour will point out where it all happened, can be completed in under an hour and ends in a pub.


Among the higgledy-piggledy buildings is King’s College Visitor’s Centre, where you can buy an entrance ticket (point 2 on the map linked at the end of this article). Go up King’s Parade, keeping the chapel to your left, pass the grey-stone Senate House then then turn left behind it along Senate House Passage. At its end, turn left down Trinity Lane. You’ll see King’s College Chapel ahead of you, where you show your ticket.

Walk through King’s College Chapel – or spend some time exploring, there’s no IT angle but it is one of the most beautiful buildings on earth – then walk out into the front court (point 3).


In 1931, Alan Turing arrived at King’s College to study mathematics, graduating as one of the top students in his year. In March 1935 he became a college fellow. That summer, lying in Grantchester meadows a few miles south, he dreamed up a “universal machine” to solve a mathematical conundrum in what became his first published paper, On Computable Numbers and the Entscheidungsproblem.

The machine would read, erase and type automatically based on rules set out in a table of behaviour. Turing had created the concept of modern computing.


King's College front court – away from the madding crowd, photo: SA Mathieson

King’s Parade is hardly a mean street, but King’s College is still a haven from it – a bubble within the bubble that is central Cambridge. In 1930s Britain homosexual acts between men were illegal, but King’s didn’t care that Turing was gay: he came out to friends and had several relationships. All in all, he had more fun here than his gloomy image in the likes of The Imitation Game suggests, joining the college rowing club and once downing a pint of beer in one go. Undergraduates turning up for a supervision (Cam-speak for a tutorial) once found his nattily-dressed bear Porgy sitting in front of the fire reading a book: “Porgy is very studious this morning,” said Turing.

Turn right into the back court. Follow the track down its right-hand side then turn left along the river Cam. At the paved path, turn right onto the hump-backed bridge (point 4). From its left-hand side, look at the buildings on the river’s left bank. The door nearest the river is X staircase, where Turing lived and worked.


Skirting the Turing Room - King's College's computing room, for use by student, photo: SA Mathieson

King’s already had links to government codebreaking through classicist Dilly Knox, whose later work would contribute to the Allies’ victory at the Battle of Cape Matapan, off the coast of Greece. Turing decided to return to Britain after taking a doctorate at Princeton and by the summer of 1938 he, too, was involved. He worked on cracking Enigma, the supposedly unbreakable machine used by the Nazis to encode messages, in his room at King’s – locking the outer door to protect national security.

On 3 September 1939, Turing sat in his room with Bob Augenfeld, a young Jewish refugee from Vienna he was helping to support. They heard Neville Chamberlain declare Britain’s entrance into the Second World War. The next day Turing reported to Bletchley Park, Britain’s secret code-breaking centre, where he would help win that war. Porgy the bear and one of Turing’s trophy rowing oars from King’s are now in Bletchley’s museum, as covered in a previous Geek’s Guide.



> MORE: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/09/26/geeks_guide_to_britain_walking_tour/

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Looks like the party is over.

Prices sliding and and inventory on the up. Also yields are low on rentals....


(in Edit - Chart to Sept.2016 added):






Average Asking Prices

By Type in Cambridge (£000's)


======== Sep. 2006 : Oct. 2016 : Change

Detached: £376,885: £946,931 : +151%

Semi----- : £274,410 : £534,341 : + 95%

Terraced- : £288,107 : £623,029 : +116%

Flat------- : £223,210: £354,589 : + 59%

All ===== : £297,685: £561,144 : + 89%

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