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Encryption Security The Military

Bletchley Park Facing Financial Ruin 234

Posted by kdawson
from the save-turing's-hut dept.
biscuitfever11 writes "Bletchley Park, the home of Station X, Britain's secret code-breaking base during World War II, is barely scraping by financially, as shown in these images compiled by ZDNet this week. The site has undergone major redevelopment as an act of remembrance for the Allied efforts to break the German Enigma code, but now its future is clouded — among others, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation turned them down for financial assistance (since it doesn't have to do with the Internet). Its director estimates that Bletchley Park's funds will be exhausted in three years. Hungry land developers are circling. This is an insightful look at what's happened to Bletchley Park these days and the pain it's going through."
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Bletchley Park Facing Financial Ruin

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:06AM (#23431960)
    These aren't starving kids in Africa, for crying out loud. It's just a museum. And, however important the historical significance of the site, it's hardly fair to make a snide remark about not getting funding from a foundation that has MUCH more important issues to deal with. If anything, they should be getting funding from the British government (and obviously THEY don't think it's so important).

    I know this is /., and there is many a Bill-basher here who would probably take ANY opportunity to blast him, but COME ON.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:12AM (#23432036)
      Yea! Let the Brits destroy their heritage like we do in the US. Tear it down and put a parking lot on it, that's what I say.
      • by berwiki (989827) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:57AM (#23432624)
        ugh, what-ever.
        every single inch of soil has some history to it.
        If you really think saving this place is worth time and effort, please donate some of your money.

        My guess is not many people feel like you do.
        • by gfxguy (98788)
          I agree. If it was worth it to people, they'd be paying to go visit it and it'd be making enough money to stay in business.

          That's really all there is to it. It's not even just not worth it to the British government, but obviously not to the British people, either.
          • by ktappe (747125)

            I agree. If it was worth it to people, they'd be paying to go visit it and it'd be making enough money to stay in business.
            It's chicken and egg. Only by the site persisting can people become educated as to its significance and then realize its worth. Those of you who take the self-sustaining stance are those who see the price of everything and the value of nothing.
            • by gallwapa (909389)
              The Chicken is the eggs way of making another egg. In this case, the egg isn't producing a chicken, therefore, it will die out.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jonbryce (703250)
            But it is near Milton Keynes, and therefore impossible for anyone other than a local to find.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by VJ42 (860241) *

              But it is near Milton Keynes
              So that's why people aren't going there, they might have to see Milton Keynes in order to get there...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:16AM (#23432096)
      Kids in Africa are starving for reasons the Gates Foundation can't fix.

      That written, I view the demise of Bletchley Park the same way I look at copyrights: Doing something great a long time ago shouldn't guarantee you a lifetime of financial benefits. Even if you saved the world.

      Great you broke codes but a long time has passed since then. Figure out how to pay your own way.
      • Dude, you didn't have to post AC; unlike most AC posts, your argument was quite coherent and could use some up-moderation.

        /P

      • by Shakrai (717556) * on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:07AM (#23432734) Journal

        That written, I view the demise of Bletchley Park the same way I look at copyrights: Doing something great a long time ago shouldn't guarantee you a lifetime of financial benefits

        Your comparing efforts to save an important part of our history to copyrights?

        Figure out how to pay your own way.

        Am I the only one that sees value in preserving important parts of our history for future generations?

        • by Telvin_3d (855514) on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:17AM (#23432918)
          But what does preserving the history mean? In a case like this, the history is extremely well documented. Not only that, but the value of the site itself lies solely in the fact that it IS well documented. The building and grounds are not inherently historically valuable.

          When you talk about preserving a site like this it's not the same way you would talk about preserving an area of Greek or Roman ruins. It's not like they are going to excavate it at a later date and discover unknown relics.

          Without the knowledge of what has happened there, the site is meaningless. And if you have the documentation the site becomes more about the emotional and symbolic attachment than historical value.

          And eventually it gets down to the fact that if we faithfully preserved every place that anything interesting had ever happened at it wouldn't be long before our entire society would be static.
          • by Shakrai (717556) * on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:22AM (#23433008) Journal

            And eventually it gets down to the fact that if we faithfully preserved every place that anything interesting had ever happened at it wouldn't be long before our entire society would be static.

            I would agree with that, but you have to weigh the "anything interesting" part against the bigger picture. In this case, the "anything interesting" was an Allied effort that saved thousands of lives and probably shortened the war by a year. I tend to think that's worth preserving and that the value to society is greater then allowing a developer to build a strip mall or cookie-cutter condos over it.

            • by MightyYar (622222) on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:42AM (#23433392)
              Here's the thing, though: The site was not important to their work. They could have done this in a trailer somewhere. I'd bet that they could sell the land and then set up a big enough endowment to save one lot for a small museum to display the equipment and such.

              I think people want to save this site because it happens to be a grand old mansion... if this thing were a blah standard-issue 1940s military brick building people would be so sentimental.
              • by digitig (1056110) on Friday May 16, 2008 @10:54AM (#23434788)
                The site is a lot more than the mansion (which isn't very grand by British standards). The mansion has quite extensive grounds, which are covered by ugly, squat WWII brick buildings -- I did my apprenticeship in one of them, D-Block (I don't know whether all the aircraft navigational aids that we were trained on are still on the field at the back of the estate). At that time it was on the edge of a sleepy little market town, but the planners had decreed that it become part of the new city of Milton Keynes, filling in a rural gap in Britain's axial belt, a conurbation running from London up through Birmingham and The Potteries up to Manchester and Liverpool. That means it's now an expanse of private parkland in the middle of a city, a few minutes walk from Bletchley Station. I bet it gets stung badly for rates (local taxes), and the land would be worth a fortune. The museum happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think the smart move would be to move the museum into the mansion and sell off the rest of the land -- maybe keep the lake in front of the mansion and a bit of the green, to justify the name "park". That should raise enough to keep them going for quite a while, and keep some of the historic site.
            • by Comboman (895500) on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:47AM (#23433470)
              I would agree with that, but you have to weigh the "anything interesting" part against the bigger picture. In this case, the "anything interesting" was an Allied effort that saved thousands of lives and probably shortened the war by a year. I tend to think that's worth preserving and that the value to society is greater then allowing a developer to build a strip mall or cookie-cutter condos over it.

              But you could make the same argument for preserving a factory that built tanks, a shipyard, an airfield, a university laboratory that developed a slightly improved radar. Eventually you have nothing but museums. Some are necessary, but you have to draw the line somewhere. The building didn't shorten the war; the people who worked there did. We honour them by documenting their successes and continuing to build on their work in cryptography, not by turning their workshop into a shrine.

          • by cliffski (65094) on Friday May 16, 2008 @10:19AM (#23434114) Homepage
            have you ever BEEN there?
            I have, about 2 years ago. And it's fantastic. You might thinkt hats long as someone took a few photos of it, we can bulldoze it and build luxury flats there. But i disagree.
            I normally HATE guided tours of places, but the tour of bletchley is fantastic, given by genuine experts, some of whom worked there, and who have a very deep understanding of technically how the cods were broken. the museum there is awesome, and the re-created machines that you can go and look at are truly astounding. This is literally the birthplace of computing. And you would happily let it disappear?
            Here is some pics I took of some of the rebuilt machines, with the guy who did the rebuilding pictured:

            http://www.positech.co.uk/blog/enigma1.jpg [positech.co.uk]
            http://www.positech.co.uk/blog/enigma2.jpg [positech.co.uk]
            http://www.positech.co.uk/blog/enigma3.jpg [positech.co.uk]

            BP is well worth saving. Much more so than just ANOTHER stately home, of which we preserve hundreds.
          • So when are you pulling the White house down ... we know what happened there it's very well documented?
        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          How important is it though really? I mean, we're all a bunch of geeks, and we've all read Cryptonomicon, so we all know what Bletchley Park is. But do you think most people know or even care about it? I say, take the artifacts that are salvagable, and put them in some other museum. Canada has a Museum of War, I'm sure the UK has something similar [tourist-in...ion-uk.com]. Putting them there, or somewhere with more traffic, would probably allow many more people to find out about the role played by cryptographers in the war. A
        • by robably (1044462)

          Am I the only one that sees value in preserving important parts of our history for future generations?

          No, actually I think you're in the majority, but that still doesn't mean you're right. I understand the need to record our past, but not to preserve it at the expense of being able to do something useful with it now.

          I think the reason many people feel a need to museumify old buildings is because much of what we build now is ugly and inhuman. That is the problem that needs to be fixed, and then let the ri

      • by SirGarlon (845873)

        Kids in Africa are starving for reasons the Gates Foundation can't fix.
        The reasons kids are starving in Africa is exactly what the Gates Foundation is trying to fix. [gatesfoundation.org]
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by photomonkey (987563)

        I'll bite because you're obviously (AC) embarrassed by your own opinion.

        Many of those pictures you have hanging in your home and/or office exist BECAUSE of copyright. That music and video hogging space on your iPod... you know, the stuff that helps you make it through your workout? It's there precisely because of copyright.

        Sure, some aspects of copyright law have gotten out of control. But it is copyright that allows artists to fully pursue their art, and to make the work that you (or others) deem so

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by RattFink (93631)

      These aren't starving kids in Africa, for crying out loud. It's just a museum.
      How this is bashing? A person who it known to donate a lot of money to computing museums doesn't bail this one out. It says more about the urgency of the situation then some sort of Gates bash.
    • Yeah. My initial question here was "Why doesn't the government step in?" What, does England have so much history that it doesn't see the value of protecting a historic site that's from something as new as the last century?

      Here in the states, we've got the NSA cryptologic museum [nsa.gov], where among other things you can tool around on an old Enigma from WWII. Can't imagine why Britain wouldn't want something like it.
      • What, does England have so much history that it doesn't see the value of protecting a historic site that's from something as new as the last century?
        We do have an awful lot of history. Near where I grew up is a 13th century castle, and a little further a copy of the Magna Carta from 1215. The town itself was founded in 888. Yes, without a 1 in front. Throw in lots of roman stuff, and things I've never even been told of, and yeah, something from 1945 might not be thought to be really that *wow*.
      • by CmdrGravy (645153) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:58AM (#23432630) Homepage
        The British Government decided quite a while ago to get rid of any responsibility it had for looking after any of our historic buildings. Instead they set up the National Lottery to directly tax poor and stupid people with a remit to help good causes such as this one.

        Even before that though most of these things are maintained ( or not ) by organisations such as the National Trust or museums and charitable organisations. I can't think of a single thing such as this building which is directly supported by the government, it's just something that in the UK has never been up to the government but is left to private individuals or charitable organisations to deal with. In general the government through it's local councils have no interest at all in maintaining any of our more historic buildings being quite happy instead to let them stand around empty for decades until they have rotted sufficiently to be knocked down and redeveloped. All most all of Birminghams historic Edwardian public baths are currently suffering from this treatment.

        There was recently a BBC programme which allowed viewers to vote on which one of a dozen or so worthy historic buildings was given money for maintenance whilst letting the rest continue to fall into disrepair. Britains long range Vulcan bomber is being preserved and renovated by a private group of enthusiasts and BA are refusing to sell Concorde to a similar group of enthusiasts for preservation so in general here in the UK what is preserved and what is not is more or less a random lottery with many things falling by the wayside and being crushed underfoot.
        • by l-ascorbic (200822) on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:09AM (#23432776)
          While its funding is not great, English Heritage protects hundreds of historic buildings and other heritage sites. They're a government-funded quango, attached to the DCMS. There are equivalents in Wales and Scotland.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CastrTroy (595695)

          s. Instead they set up the National Lottery to directly tax poor and stupid people with a remit to help good causes such as this one.

          I don't get why people think that only stupid people play the lottery. I think of it as a form of extremely high risk investment. Sure, most people are going to lose money, especially over the long run. But if you win, the payouts are huge. It's not a good idea to invest every single dollar you have in trying to win the Lottery, because in the end, you'll still likely be

      • by l-ascorbic (200822) on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:06AM (#23432730)
        If the government won't spare the money to protect Stonehenge of all places, it's unsurprising that other stuff is neglected too.
      • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:10AM (#23432788)
        What, does England have so much history that it doesn't see the value of protecting a historic site that's from something as new as the last century?

        Yep, that's pretty much it. There's only so much funding to go around, and there are thousands and thousands of sites of historical interest competing for it. Bletchley isn't really such a strong competitor; the site itself is of no architectural interest, it's nothing to look at. All it ever was was a bunch of army huts. There are ancient castles and manors falling down which are much more photogenic and attract more tourists.

        To me Bletchley is of more intellectual than historic interest: it's where Turing did his work founding the discipline of computer science. As such, I wonder if the best way forward would be for the site to become a technology park, or a research centre attached perhaps to the OU? That would preserve what was important there - the intellectual tradition - even if it meant doing away with most of the WW2-era buildings.

        • There are ancient castles and manors falling down which are much more photogenic and attract more tourists.
          Yes but how many of those manors were used to save Britain's ass in WWII? I guess the park itself isn't all that important but the things inside of it should be preserved in a museum somewhere.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ek_adam (442283)
          In the US we think 100 years is a long time.

          In England they think that 100 miles is a long way to drive.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Well, England [wikipedia.org] was unified as a country in the year 927, and had people on it long before that. Stonehenge was built in 2000 BC. It has quite a few historical sites to uphold, considering it's history. The US on the other hand doesn't have much history to protect. They only have what's been around in the last 300 years or so . Before that, it was mostly the Natives. And they didn't build anything that lasted through history. Actually it seems quite weird to me that the North American Native population
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Penguinisto (415985)

      And, however important the historical significance of the site, it's hardly fair to make a snide remark about not getting funding from a foundation that has MUCH more important issues to deal with.

      Indeed... there's no angle here where Bill can trade charity for Windows sales to the government as far as I can tell... little wonder he turned 'em down. Before you think this is 'Bill-bashing', take a look at Mexico as a huge example of how Mssr. Gates does marketshare-pushing in developing countries.

      If anything, they should be getting funding from the British government (and obviously THEY don't think it's so important).

      Now here, I agree. If it were important to Parliament, they would've obviously done something by now. As it is, Colossus could be moved to the appropriate national museum and given its own place of ho

      • I dunno if there's any museum who would be willing to give up so much of their precious space for one single exhibit. It's called Colossus for a reason. Maybe the Imperial War Museum North, but I dunno who else would have the space.
    • by jedidiah (1196)
      No. The Gates Family simply has no class.

      Surely it wouldn't break the bank to help keep going a landmark of the industry that gave them their fortune.
    • Actually, the entire interesting portion of the museum could fit in a single room of, say, the Science Museum in London.

      They also have a bunch of rather nice, second world war cars, but these are out of place in the museum, and mostly not apparent unless you really hunt around.

      There may be a lot of interesting history regarding the site, but it has no chance of getting widespread public interest.

      The reason is the same as that for the various Watermill restoration projects around the country (to pick an exa
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      And who cares about thousands of years of technical drawing (the predecessor of software code writing nerdism), it's dead now.

      http://www.pipingdesign.com/FridayFunnies/drafting/album/ [pipingdesign.com]
  • Upstairs boarder (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:11AM (#23432028)
    When I's a kid growing up in Kansas, we used t' rent out the upper room to boarders at a reasonable price. This helpt us git our bills paid and gave us poor farmers some company on those long summer nights. Twasn't like we were usin' the upstairs room.

    Except for hubris, I don't see the real benefit in holding on to all that real estate if all they are going to do is slowly bleed to death. If they put the land to work for them, by renting it out as office space, they could probably make enough to keep a smaller museum running.

    But what do I know about those English? All I know is that when I go into the bathroom, I'm American. When I come out, I'm American again.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:14AM (#23432070)
      when I go into the bathroom, I'm American.

      You should see a doctor about that.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:24AM (#23432188)
      And when you're in the bathroom? European.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hcdejong (561314)
      They're already doing that. Some of the estate has been sold off. Parts of the main building (the old mansion) can be hired for conferences etc. if I remember correctly.
      There's no hubris there, at least none that I could detect when I visited the place a few years ago.
    • Well in the last few years they've sold off a lot of the land they previously owned (modern housing estate being built there now) and you can indeed rent out some of the buildings, plus they rent the main areas out as function rooms.

      Trouble is the UK is on the edge of a recession - you might have noticed housing prices being a bit dodgy in the USA recently? and so the office rental market is shrinking not growing. So it's a tough market to be in and 60 year old buildings in Bletchley, well, that's a tough
  • by RandoX (828285) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:12AM (#23432044)
    Even the "run down" pictures look better than my working conditions.
    • by kabocox (199019)
      Even the "run down" pictures look better than my working conditions.

      Well, I took a look at the picture. My impression? Damn that would make a nice office or apartment. IF they can't make it as a museum, then on one wants to spend how ever much to look at WWII decrypting stuff. It was important so what. It isn't important right now or the British would fund it. I'm sure the British have a much newer code breaking office complex some where else that they actually consider important.

      Come on there were lots of
  • by jotok (728554) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:17AM (#23432116)
    Enigma was broken by a Polish cryptographer named Marian Rejewski [wikipedia.org]. The Poles knew they were going to be overrun by the Germans and disclosed their work to the French and British.

    Bletchley Park is where they automated the process of intercepting, decrypting, translating, and analyzing Axis communications. I can't think of any large-scale SIGINT operation that preceded Bletchley, and it was certainly vital to the war effort, but credit where it's due, etc.
    • by maxume (22995) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:25AM (#23432200)
      Great article on the history of Enigma:

      http://www.nsa.gov/publications/publi00016.cfm [nsa.gov]
    • by N Monkey (313423) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:41AM (#23432372)

      Enigma was broken by a Polish cryptographer named Marian Rejewski [wikipedia.org].
      IIRC, enigma was initially broken as you say, but that technique relied on the German army's flawed protocol of sending two encrypted copies of the same 3 letters (that formed the session key) at the start of each transmission. They soon realised that this was a security weakness and so Bletchley park had to develop new techniques. The German navy used a much tougher system again.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by 91degrees (207121)
        I think the most significant act of the Polish cryptographers was proving that the code could be broken. Without that, it's possible that the British government would have directed the resources elsewhere.
      • by dave420 (699308)
        Exactly. The Naval Enigma used an extra rotor, and had a far more complicated encrypting procedure, making the breaking of it far more difficult than the already-daunting task of breaking the 3-rotor Enigma.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by piotru (124109)
        -First, Rejewski and coworkers from Biuro Szyfrow in Poland had shown that Enigma IS breakable. Before nobody bothered attacking the problem.
        -Second, the Polish have for the first time ever applied mathematics to decrypting.
        -Third, they have developed "Bomba", the first ever decrypting machine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bomba_(cryptography))

        For more details, read Simon Singh's "The Code Book"
    • by arkhan_jg (618674)
      Enigma was indeed broken by the poles in 1932 through the use of german sloppy procedures ( giving known cribs), and their work caused the inital breaks of enigma - full credit to them. The automation was british, as was the day-to-day testing of the cribs and proposed solutions from the bombes during the war. The naval introduction of a 4th rotor to enigma caused a shut-out of bletchley for 10 months before they found another way 'in' (the short weather reports were sent using only three rotors, thus allow
  • Lottery funding (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kernowyon (1257174) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:25AM (#23432196) Journal
    Ok, so I can (sort of) understand the Gates Foundation not wishing to fund this, but the UK National Lottery turned it down too!
    For the benefit of those not in the UK, the National Lottery is where you buy a ticket for £1 and choose six numbers. If the numbers you pick come up - then you win a load of cash.
    This Lottery was supposed to raise money for what are deemed "Good Causes". These Good Causes are chosen by some committee who seem to have a strange idea with regard to what constitutes a "good cause". Running an elitist venue such as the Royal Opera House and maybe your clientele is dwindling because your prices are bloody ridiculous? Lottery funding to the rescue! There are plenty of examples of this "Old Boy" network, where obscure or unpopular elitist "causes" are funded, whilst small local projects - or indeed projects of National Historical value, such as Bletchley Park, are turned down.
    Only a very small percentage of the takings from the Lottery actually makes its way to the causes - the vast majority goes to the company which runs the Lottery. That is one of my biggest complaints about it - Richard Branson has offered on at least two occasions to run the Lottery and to make it a non-profit organisation, but has been turned down on both occasions, despite having the backing of most of the UK!
    I am not familiar with how Bletchley is currently funded - presumably by entrance fees? - but I would expect the UK Government to help out, rather than see this go under.
    • by trongey (21550) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:28AM (#23432240) Homepage

      For the benefit of those not in the UK, the National Lottery is where you buy a ticket for £1 and choose six numbers. If the numbers you pick come up - then you win a load of cash...
      Apparently, you don't even have to buy the ticket. I get notified at least once a week that I've won the UK National Lottery. I just haven't gotten around to responding to those emails yet to claim my cash.
    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:51AM (#23432498) Journal

      For the benefit of those not in the UK, the National Lottery is where you buy a ticket for £1 and choose six numbers. If the numbers you pick come up - then you win a load of cash.

      We have two organizations like this in the US:

      The first is called Powerball - runs in many (not all states), and does almost the same thing... only costs a buck and a hope. The profits are divided among participating states and put towards public works projects (e.g. roads, schools, parks...)

      The other one is called NASDAQ, though Lord only knows where the profits end up.

      /P

    • Well, actually Camelot takes far less than is given to the "good causes". But the point about Camelot being shitty still stands.
    • by owlnation (858981)
      If you've ever tried to get funding from the Lottery Fund you'll also find out that if you face doesn't fit, you'll not be getting the money.

      Like most everything in the UK government, NGO's or Quangos, the Lottery fund is run by petty bureaucrats who have no sense of creativity, substance, heritage, or in fact anything else. Like most bureaucrats, they are bureaucrats because they've no imagination, nor ambition, nor skills. And the bad news is that they've also sucked up a lot of finds from The Arts Co
    • by Pembers (250842)

      I agree that the committee's ideas about what to fund seem strange sometimes, though the "strange" Good Causes will get more media attention than the "normal" ones. Most of the money paid into the lottery goes straight back out to those who buy tickets, in the form of prizes.

      The money spent on tickets is distributed as follows:

      • 50% in prizes
      • 28% to Good Causes
      • 12% to the Government in "lottery duty"
      • 5% to the retailers who sell the tickets
      • 4.5% covers Camelot's operating costs
      • 0.5% is Camelot's profit

      (F

  • If you read TFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:32AM (#23432292)
    Make sure you go through the pictures as well, each one has a long and interesting caption.
  • Who cares ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:33AM (#23432306) Journal
    It is not some unique work of art or architecture. What was invented there (computer science) is what is really important and it is very alive in a lot of places today. The place where it all happened is just a footnote in history (and as some other posters will probably explain, Bletchley Park was only an important step in the coputer science history but is included in a continuity)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Peter Simpson (112887)
      Bletchley should be preserved, because so much that is important to technology today happened within those walls. Alan Turing worked there. The German domination of the North Atlantic was broken there.

      It's hard for us in the US to imagine what the Brits went through during the war. Bletchley, along with the Battle of Britain, was one of their big successes on the home front.

      It's all well and good to read about history, but there's something more gripping about a visit to where history was made.
  • by dwater (72834)
    Perhaps the Gates' would be interested if they ported Windows to the Enigma machine, or, at the very least, develop a Enigma simulator for Windows.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by simong (32944)
      There is one. [telenet.be] It looks a lot prettier now than the original version I saw in the mid 90s, but the principles are the same.
  • This is truly sad (Score:5, Informative)

    by Joshua W Ferguson (1165439) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:47AM (#23432440)

    The work that the code breakers at Bletchley park did prevented a lot of Ally deaths. When the Germans instituted using the 4-wheel enigma it was impossible to tell what the U-boats were doing out in the Atlantic Ocean. Because of this, supply boats going to the U.K. were being sunk at a high rate, unable to avoid the U-boats, eventually the Brits could have been forced out of the battle (no war supplies == no war). Near the end of 1942 however, some documented daily settings on the new 4-wheel enigma were pulled off of a sunken U-boat in the Mediterranean [codesandciphers.org.uk] allowing german naval deciphers to be broken. Through the man-power, knowledge, and tools available at Bletchley, they could decipher and relay german naval messages (at least in the Atlantic) to high command often within hours of obtaining them. After this, supply ships in the Atlantic were nearly invisible to German U-boats. The monthly settings booklets still had to be retrieved to continue this, but through missions and sometimes luck most of them were captured

    That's the WWII side of the story (or at least a very small part of it).

    The importance to /. is probably that this war was the first time machines were used to cipher messages, and thus machines had to do the deciphering. To break the regular ground enigma's daily settings scientists at Bletchley designed and manufactured the Colossus(es) [wikipedia.org]. If you ever see this thing run, especially the interior mechanisms, you'll know this was a great unknown leap towards multi-purpose computing machinery. Unfortunately because of U.K. laws, the work and knowledge of those at Bletchley couldn't be released until sometime in the 80's (I think)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dave420 (699308)
      Not to mention the centimetric radar fitted to some of the first ASW planes ever put in action, but most definitely - Bletchley park changed the world.
  • Disgusted (Score:5, Insightful)

    by segedunum (883035) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:50AM (#23432478)
    As a UK citizen I'm pretty disgusted that a lot of our landmarks and history, as well as worthwhile projects such as revived steam railway lines and 'sense' centres for severely disabled kids with people putting their own volunteer time in, are somehow getting turn down for National Lottery funding (there never is a solid reason given) and billions are being given to the waste of time and money that is the Olympics, largely because of corruption. Who's going to miss a few million going missing here and there? These are schemes and projects that only want a few tens or hundreds of thousands pounds as well.

    This is exactly the sort of thing that the National Lottery was supposed to help, and exactly the sort of thing that has been let down.
  • Never mind (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wowsers (1151731) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:51AM (#23432494) Journal
    Don't worry, the pathetic English hating UK government will spare no effort in wasting £17bn on an 2 week politicians / IOC orgy at the London Olympics games that only the freeloaders want (as opposed to the taxpayers who don't want it).

    The things that are important to a nation are discarded, and what gives no benefit gets taxpayers money thrown at it like taxpayers money was going out of fashion.
  • No exaggeration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hcdejong (561314) <hobbesNO@SPAMxmsnet.nl> on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:56AM (#23432586)
    I was there a few years ago. Some of the exhibits were in WW2 vintage barracks (i.e. temporary buildings never meant to stand for more than 5 years, let alone 50. In one hut, there were puddles on the floor. The whole place is falling apart.

    As for the argument 'you can always move the exhibits to the Science Museum and sell the land': The exhibits are important, but the accomodations themselves make a point that's worth remembering as well. The most vital project of the entire war was being run out of a collection of sheds, basically. To think that 9000 people worked there on the most advanced technology in existence back then, boggles the mind.
  • The irony. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    That the foundation setup by the man once made the richest in the world by the computing industry, declines to fund the museum documenting the crucible of the first programmable computing machines, such as Colossus.

    Ingrates.

    TFOAE
  • by failedlogic (627314) on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:08AM (#23432758)
    Now perhaps I'm over-associating the Bletchley work. But I'd have to think, that at the very least, this is a "Good Cause" to support. But I believe a museum designation is long-overdue for Bletchley - or a Heritage building which must be preserved. A statue of some of the fine men and women who worked there might draw people's attention to their efforts. I think its because the people at Bletchley weren't soldiers that they haven't garnered public attention or praise which is why Bletchley remains in the condition its in. Its a sad reality when the artsy fartsies are the first one to always get new museums or funding for museums. And indeed, they're the ones who fight for buildings to be preserved for Historic reasons. Where are they in this case? These would have been the last people to pickup a rifle in WWII.

    Members of the public probably don't know or understand (e.g. lack of knowledge of the military) the contributions at Bletchley. I'm not one to usually fight for heritage properties or a museum. But for goodness sake, the worked they did helped destroy countless U-boats (my Canadian grandfather worked on shipping lines crossing the Atlantic risking his neck each time he crossed and so many perished because of the U-Boats), helped gather countless intel on German operations, helped confirm the D-Day operation date and continued to spy on the Germans (just to make sure they weren't up to anything) after WWII. It saved the lives of countless Army, Air and Navy men and women of all nationalities that served in WWII on the European front. And, indirectly, because of this work, it helped put a stop to the Concentration Camps.

    Why the hell are they not getting the due respect and attention that they so rightly desire? This is a disgrace. Were I British, I would be fighting for the preservation of this building. I'm not sure that as a Canadian, my words will count for much.
  • Advertising (Score:2, Informative)

    They might try advertising to increase the number of visitors. I live less then 30 miles from the site and have never once seen any promotional material relating to it.
  • Hard to Visit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Friday May 16, 2008 @10:18AM (#23434094)
    The few times I've been to the UK in recent times I've tried to visit Bletchley Park. Each time, the hours of the museum didn't work. In checking the website, I now see that things have improved considerably, but with an infant at home I likely won't be back to the UK any time soon :(
  • That is a question wrapped in a puzzle wrapped in an enigma.
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:17AM (#23435162) Homepage

    I've been to Bletchley Park. The problem is that they have only a few things worth exhibiting, like the rebuilt bombe, the rebuilt Colossus, and some real crypto machines from WWII. One big gallery in a major museum could house the collection. But the place is a sizable estate. The famous "huts" aren't much to look at, and some of them are only concrete pads today. The manor house is in decent shape but an architectural mishmash not really worthy of preservation.

    They also have a model railroad, a model boat club, an auto collection, a lake with swans, a collection of Churchill-was-here memorabilia, and, inevitably, a gift shop, like too many other English estates open to visitors.

  • Okay everyone, be honest.

    How many of us only know or care about this because we really liked Cryptonomicon?

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