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PGP, IBM launch Bletchley fundraiser

PGP, IBM launch Bletchley fundraiser

Exhibits like this fully-working Colossus replica are in danger of being abandoned unless funding can be found.

Bletchley Park, the home of code breaking during the Second World War, is hoping to secure its future as an important historical site – with a little help from IBM and PGP.

The unassuming set of buildings in Milton Keynes was home to some of the brightest minds in the world – and was key in the Allied victory in World War 2. It was at Bletchley Park where some of the most important work was done on codebreaking and computing, and without advances such as the Turing Bombe it's fair to say modern computing would look very different.

Bletchley Park, as well as being a code museum, is home to the National Museum of Computing – an ambitious project to gather fully-working examples of as many different computing devices as possible, from a fully-working Colossus to the microcomputers of my youth.

Sadly, the future of the facility is starting to look uncertain. According to CNet many of the buildings are in a poor state of repair, and without an injection of cash soon both the museums may have to close their doors.

Accordingly, two companies that have perhaps the most to thank Bletchley Park for have joined forces to begin a fundraising drive: IBM, one of the earliest successful computing corporations; and PGP, the encryption specialist corporation founded by Phil Zimmerman. The current CEO of PGP, Phil Dunkelberger, told CNet that his company hopes to call “attention [to the fact] that Bletchley is falling into disrepair, and that, probably, the world owes a debt of gratitude to that place.

The National Museum of Computing is feeling the squeeze especially badly: with no external funding, the Museum attempted to get a National Lottery grant and was turned down. Following this, it applied for funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – a company with more than a passing knowledge of the history of computing – but was again denied.

I can only hope that the fundraising campaign is a success, as the nation – and, indeed, the world – will lose a valuable memorial and educational resource with regards the early days of computing technology should the facility be allowed to moulder.

Have any of our readers been to Bletchley Park, or were you unaware of its existence? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

8 Comments

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ChaosDefinesOrder 9th September 2008, 09:59 Quote
turned down by Bill and Melinda Gates foundation? What the hell? Surely Bill should have a significant debt of gratitude?
p3n 9th September 2008, 10:28 Quote
What do you mean, afterall we have the Americans to thanks for bailing us out of WW2 :)
steveo_mcg 9th September 2008, 10:41 Quote
and to be fair most other computer systems were developed independently of colossus thanks to the official secrets act.
Nexxo 9th September 2008, 15:06 Quote
Not the first time the UK government has dismissed its own historic and cultural heritage.

"Heritage" is good commerce when it involves Laura Ashley dresses, home-made cheese and jam and twee china plates with floral patterns and pictures of rustic scenes on them. It is highly eligible for National Lottery grants when it involves opera houses and art museums that the upper crust enjoy. But when it comes to what Britain was really made of: the coal mines and the industrial revolution, nobody cares --there's no profit to be made since both were sold down the river during the Thatcher years.

Neither do people want reminding that the guy who saved Britain's ass was then persecuted to suicide for being gay. Or that Tommy Flowers, the creator of the first practical electronic computer and the technical innovator behind the design of the Colossus computer had to fund the initial project out of his own pocket because nobody believed it would work. He was given an MBE and reimbursed £1000,-- after the war ended --barely enough to cover this debt. Although he proposed making a digital electronic exchange, he was not successful because he couldn't convince the management of the Post Office of their worth nor tell them he had already worked on such systems due to the Official Secrets Act. He as not acknowledged until 1970.

Don't ask the US: they prefer to think that they cracked the Enigma code, and like to take credit for saving the World's ass rather than to concede it to a gay mathematician and a Post Office engineer. Who really saved the world.
Cupboard 9th September 2008, 16:59 Quote
I am sure that our government would be slightly more willing to help if it hadn't stupidly gone for the Olympics.
Bionic-Blob 9th September 2008, 23:04 Quote
i live right next to bletchley park :P
Red 5 10th September 2008, 00:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bionic-Blob
i live right next to bletchley park :P

Really? I live about a half mile away from the grounds and pass the new housing developments on my way to work.

Back on topic, I've only ever visited because part of my college course was held there. Specifically, the old American building. It's a great shame that our government, and indeed others, won't recognise the estate's contribution to freedom and democracy throughout the world, or at least Europe.

I hate myself a little for that last sentence.
LordPyrinc 10th September 2008, 00:36 Quote
A multitude of people from different countries and backgrounds contributed to Allied victory in WWII. Unfortunately, the history books seem to only footnote many, and completely exclude others. As long as we continue to remember those who contributed, great and small, their deeds will not go unsung.
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