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Wednesday, 16 November 2011 12:25

Google to preserve slice of computing history

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Hopes to restore Bletchley Park to former glory


Google has secured funding for a rather interesting charitable operation in the hopes of preserving one of the most important sites in the history of computing.

Bletchley Park, a rundown Victorian manor house in Buckinghamshire has seen better days. In World War II, the site was the home of Britain’s decryption effort, spearheaded by legendary mathematician Alan Turing. Eventually, boffins working out of Bletchley Park developed the first programmable computer which allowed them to crack the Enigma code, used by the Nazis.

Historians now believe their feat shortened the war by as much as two years, saving millions of lives and helping allies thwart Axis war plans. From the quagmire at Kursk to the desperate fight to protect supply lines in the North Atlantic, intel from Bletchley Park played a vital role in giving allied forces an upper hand.

The restoration effort is the brainchild of Google exec Simon Meacham, a Brit working in California and, apparently, a history buff. Meacham approached Google’s charity arm about securing $100,000 to get the program rolling and buy scientific papers produced by Turning and his team in the late thirties. That was just a start and Meacham launched a much more ambitious drive to raise £2 million for the renovation of Bletchley’s Block C.

Meacham hopes to attract support from the rest of the tech industry, which clearly owes a huge debt to Bletchley’s scientists: "Wouldn't it be great if there was a hub for computing activity in the UK that was built around where the entire industry started?"

Luckily, his efforts did not go unnoticed. The British Heritage Lottery Fund has already pledged a £4.6 million grant and even the Queen popped round to visit the site and unveil a memorial to the scientists.

More here.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 16 November 2011 12:28

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+3 #1 Dribble 2011-11-16 13:16
If we are preserving history then it should be noted that it wasn't breaking enigma that was most important, it was breaking the much more complex lorenz code. Enigma was the common coding machine used for short messages, useful for say finding a u-boat resupply location/time where it could be blown up.

Lorenz was used by the high command only for much longer messages - for example the full battle plans and force configuration for some major offensive. e.g. in Kursk the Brits told the Russians not only about the attack, but the full detailed German battle plans - exactly what the German generals got.
That was Lorenz code - and breaking that was the most amazing achievement of them all, which was done using the worlds first semi-programmable computer.
 
 
0 #2 thematrix606 2011-11-16 13:18
LOL, wtf is up with the attached pic?
 
 
0 #3 air_ii 2011-11-16 14:47
It's a nice story, but... it's not the British who broke the Enigma cipher in the first place. They only continued/enhanced the work of a couple of Polish folks.
 
 
+1 #4 FakeJ 2011-11-16 16:26
Good on Google, this is a site and institution that should be preserved.

The Poles smuggled out a older version of the Enigma, but it took a major cast of charactors (mostly British) to crack it and other cyphers.

Their work should not be forgotten, regardless of national origin.
 
 
0 #5 TinHat 2011-11-17 09:35
The first step was the Enigma don't ever forget that. You build a raft before you get a battleship.
 
 
0 #6 TinHat 2011-11-17 09:44
Regarding the picture, who cares what gender Alan Turing was? That lady has one serious chip on her shoulder and is very unlikely to have played any part in the progress of mankind. Anyway, is it me, or does she look like a lesbian.How ironic!
 
 
0 #7 God Of Atheism 2011-11-17 10:37
Quoting TinHat:
Regarding the picture, who cares what gender Alan Turing was? That lady has one serious chip on her shoulder and is very unlikely to have played any part in the progress of mankind. Anyway, is it me, or does she look like a lesbian.How ironic!


I think you missed the sarcasm on the sign.
 
 
0 #8 FakeJ 2011-11-17 15:10
Quoting God Of Atheism:
I think you missed the sarcasm on the sign.


Unfortunately, that sign is completely serious. The Westborogh Baptist Chirch in the good ole' USA likes to do stuff like picket soldiers funerals. I beleive this pic is from Steve Jobs' funeral.
 

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