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Bletchley Park Faces Financial Rescue

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the admirable-work-deserves-commemoration dept.

Encryption 60

biscuitfever11 writes "Just two months ago it seemed that Bletchley Park, the home of Station X, Britain's secret code-breaking base during the War, was doomed as the codebreakers' huts rotted and the site fell into disrepair. But today Britain's Lottery Fund is set to step in with a grant to rescue the ailing heritage site. (There was an earlier story on ZDNet.)"

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Faces? (4, Funny)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 6 years ago | (#24073859)

I wish I has to face getting a lot of money from the lottery...

Re:Faces? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24074261)

Why was this modded offtopic? It's directly related to the article.

Ahh the lottery to the rescue (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24073863)

Britains voluntary tax on the mathematically challenged and the poor
run for profit by a US Company naturally

Re:Ahh the lottery to the rescue (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24073909)

Ahh, calling the lottery a tax, the idiots way of mocking other people's right to choose how they spend their money.

Re:Ahh the lottery to the rescue (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 6 years ago | (#24073931)

Ahh, the peoples' right to choose. Last refuge of those who like to take advantage of others.

Re:Ahh the lottery to the rescue (2, Informative)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 6 years ago | (#24073999)

That makes no sense at all. When people have no choice it becomes easier to take advantage of them.

Re:Ahh the lottery to the rescue (2, Funny)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074129)

It makes complete sense.

  1. Lament that exploiting the peoples lack of choice is illegal
  2. Find a way of making people chose to be exploited
  3. Point out that it's completely legal
  4. Profit!!

Re:Ahh the lottery to the rescue (1)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074271)

If you can MAKE them choose to be exploited, then you made the choice for them, effectively taking away their choice.

Re:Ahh the lottery to the rescue (2, Interesting)

BPPG (1181851) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074993)

No, the choice is still there. It's a psychological thing, make them think one choice is better than the other.

Kind of like making them think they're choosing whether to cross a desert or jump into a beer fountain full of hot babes and fruit. But it's a kind of environmental thing too. If there were a "smart" lottery, where only smart people could get a ticket, you'd have a different opinion of it than a "poor-tax" lottery.

Re:Ahh the lottery to the rescue (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 6 years ago | (#24087483)

If there were a "smart" lottery, where only smart people could get a ticket, you'd have a different opinion of it than a "poor-tax" lottery.

The opinion would be - why get a ticket in that lottery? It's got no prize fund.

"Smart people" don't gamble where the expectation of gain is significantly less than unity (your returns are not going to be much lower than your stake, and may be more). Fruit machines, one-armed bandits etc in the UK (the country under discussion) are required to pay out a minimum of about 70% of their takings as prizes. (I don't remember the exact figure, and it probably changes from time to time with gambling regulations. It was around 70% in the early 1980s when I did Statistics.) So, smart people are going to be looking for a better return on their lottery ticket than that. The probability of winning the UK lottery is about 1/14,500,000 ; therefore, the smart money is going to go to the one-armed bandit in the pub rather than the lottery, until the prize fund for the lottery is bigger than about 0.7*14,500,000 = £10,150,000.
I don't follow the lottery news closely, but I don't think that the prize fund reaches that sort of level more than a couple of times a year.
A (UK National-style) Lottery which restricted it's tickets to "smart people" would have to get the prize fund up to that sort of level every week if they wanted to attract significant funds from "smart people".

Unless, of course, by "smart" you are referring to people's sartorial elegance. Which rules me out too.

Re:Ahh the lottery to the rescue (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#24081839)

Yeah, we call that "marketing" these days.

Re:Ahh the lottery to the rescue (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 6 years ago | (#24085051)

No, if there is no choice of action but one, then there is no way to change the chosen action, by very definition.

Government Monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24073937)

It ain't a free market out there.

Conserving history (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24073891)

What's the deal with those huts anyway?

I can totally get why we would preserve historical monuments like the Parthenon, Stonehenge or even the Millenium Eye.

But why bother with mathematicians' huts? It's just not a piece of history worth preserving. We should remember and honour their work, yes, and it will be better preserved through math than anything else. Spend the money on a few math scholarships and we're better of using Bletchley park for a new pub.

Re:Conserving history (0, Flamebait)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 6 years ago | (#24073903)

You have a point. Have a lookie-see at the Google Earth or Microsloth Bird's Eye, most of the buildings around the original Stately Home are dull government boxes. Save the main building, yes. The crap-shacks can go. Google Map []

Re:Conserving history (2, Informative)

Scannerman (1136265) | more than 6 years ago | (#24077641)

The "Crap-shacks" are where the Historic and important stuff happened.

The main House is very nice (I used it for a seminar a few years back - I'd recommend it as a location for anyone doing something similar) but we are not particularly short of nice old house. Its the complex which is significant and thehastily thrown up wartime buildings are worth preserving, even if they don't look pretty

Re:Conserving history (1)

jeremyp (130771) | more than 6 years ago | (#24081819)

The main house is not very nice. It's an architectural mish mash and is about as ugly as a stately home could be. Were it not for its historical significance, it would have been levelled years ago and nobody would miss it.

doesn't solve all the problems (4, Interesting)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#24073913)

This won't solve the one big issue facing Bletchley, that of the site having very low appeal to visitors.

As much as they might wish it to be otherwise, a collection of huts (one of which is now a tea room, ah yes, nice treatment of history there guys...), a house, some vintage cars and a few cluttered rooms of junk that pass for 'exhibits' just doesn't appeal to people these days.

And yes, they really do look like rooms full of junk for the most part, sad to say, the presentation of their exhibits is not good at all.

Oh, and the reconstructed Collossus? It's just there, in the middle of a room, with barely any information top help kids or the otherwise uninformed relate to it.

Not that the site isn't ok to visit. If you're into WW2 stuff then its probably worth a look, but if you've got kids they will be bored out of their tiny minds all day.

Re:doesn't solve all the problems (2, Insightful)

McSnarf (676600) | more than 6 years ago | (#24073967)

It might not be the flashiest of exhibits, but these people are on a VERY small budget. (Unlike, e.g. the National Air and Space Museum.) It's well worth visiting - if not for small kids. And buy a bit of roof when you are there :)

Re:doesn't solve all the problems (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24074039)

Are we talking about the same place? My wife and I went last week and ended up going on two consecutive days. It was absolutely brilliant - Colossus was up and running and we were given a talk through it by one of the re-build team. We also talked to them about the Tunny machine they are working on and the Heath Robinson they're also re-building despite the fact it never actually worked. There are also working bomb machines and very knowledgeable staff all other the site. I would have liked more technical detail then was easily available but I really did think it was excellent. Do a tour if you go and/or get an audio wand.

Re:doesn't solve all the problems (3, Interesting)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074073)

I went last year and the Collossus was on its own, switched off, with only a small panel of text. Perhaps they've improved that part, or perhaps its not on every day.

What I did see was a lot of bored kids faces, and my son had no interest whatsoever, even though I tried to engage him.

The stuff I found interesting took less than an hour to see, after which it was try and get interested in what remained on the site to get my money's worth.

It's not that they aren't trying, its just that its not that interesting unless you already know something of the history. It most certainly isn't managing to compete as a venue for visitors, or it wouldn't have got into fiscal trouble to start with.

Re:doesn't solve all the problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24081715)

It's not that they aren't trying, its just that its not that interesting unless you already know something of the history. It most certainly isn't managing to compete as a venue for visitors, or it wouldn't have got into fiscal trouble to start with.

Firstly I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your visit by the sounds of it â" and I certainly agree it could be better. But I want to defend the trust a bit because actually what they have managed to do is pretty incredible in its own way.

The main problem they have that they have a huge, old estate to run; this isn't some purpose built modern building. Take the main mansion house for example - Its old, obviously, (I think it was built by Thomas Harrison who acquired the estate in 1793), and huge, and needs extensive repairs to its roof - that will be several million pounds to do on its own. And of course the Nissan Huts were never intended to last this long and are quite tricky to preserve. So most of the funds they raise go in to maintaining this rather old infrastructure. It had also been neglected for years. The government had no interest in preserving it what-so-ever so when the trust took over (only about 20 years ago) with no money at all the site was already in a dreadful state. (To be fair to the government Michael Howard was quite a regular visitor and was trying to secure funding for it when the Conservatives lost power in 1997. But labour has, as far as I know, shown no interest in it what so ever). They were also turned down by turned down by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation because Gates will only fund internet-based technology projects. The visitor numbers are pretty good (and rising) but because they have to be totally self supporting they are very dependent on volunteers. I'm not saying it couldn't be better , but it is a little unfair to imagine that all their financial problems are of their own making. Actually they can probably run for about another 3-4 years before having to close the site down if they don't get funding for it which shows how good their financial management actually is.

Next consider the re-build projects. After the war everything that was done at Bletchly was basically destroyed because the Brits didn't want anyone (particularly the Germans) to know that we were able to read their encoded messages in case we needed to do it again. Everyone was sworn to secrecy and most of the machines, blue-prints and other research was destroyed. So rebuilding, say, a Colossus, with a small team of volunteers, no blue prints and no machine to go and look for is kind of tricky and quite involved.

So I hope that the lottery fund rules change means they'll finally get some funding to secure the place and can start improving it as a museum. But I reckon if you're even slightly interested in computers and Crypto you should
a) Make a pilgrimage and go if you haven't already and
b) make a donation
A pound for each computer you own would be a good start (and cost me about a tenner).

Re:doesn't solve all the problems (3, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074061)

(one of which is now a tea room, ah yes, nice treatment of history there guys...)

I bet one of them was a tea-room during WWII, too, although they would have called it a canteen then.

Re:doesn't solve all the problems (-1, Troll)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074541)

Personally I'm tired of infotainment. And I'm absolutely sick and tired of pandering to retarded parents.

Not everything in this World should be an opportunity for sheeple to dump their sticky, spoiled offspring in the way of others. If you and your kids are too stupid to understand the importance of something, to treat it with the appropriate respect it deserves, then do us all a favor and fuck right off.

As a young child growing up reading Jules Verne and Darwin and war comic books I'd have been delighted to visit Bletchley Park. I didn't need touch screens, a play area, things to make noises, or a giant enigma machine that plays musical notes when I jump on it.

I recently had the occasion to visit the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Galleries in Glasgow -- I've not been there since the 1970s. My memory of it was of reverential stillness as I browsed the collections all arranged in logical scientific manner. However, now it's a brash braindead creche. The exhibits are hard to see because there's sticky child's fingers all over them, there's vandalism everywhere. It's loud, it's dumb, it's cheap, and it's tacky.

Now, obviously it's being sold as a success because there's more visitors. However, in my opinion it's a failure because it's clear that few visitors are understanding anything they are seeing, and those that do can only gleam a small amount of their potential because of the selfish sheeple majority.

Incidentally if you do find yourself in Glasgow (do try not to) and want to see a museum, then the Hunterian in the University is still a pleasant experience.

Re:doesn't solve all the problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24076481)


Re:doesn't solve all the problems (2, Interesting)

thefon (718807) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074829)

I went there about two years ago, it was fascinating. I _liked_ how the exhibits are mostly "as is". Too many museums try to look cool, but I'm there to see the history, not a rock concert. The guides and lectures told me a lot about the history and mathematics, some smart and interesting people. The whole place is a /. mecca!

Re:doesn't solve all the problems (1)

somethinsfishy (225774) | more than 6 years ago | (#24075553)

In the US we don't seem to have much interest in our technological past. These days we seem to value museum exhibits to the extent that we can "brand" them to advertise the donor corporation. This sale to corporations of cultural artifacts and institutions for use as vehicles for advertising is everywhere. Everything from art exhibits to sports arenas are defaced with logos. Twenty years ago the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago had a really neat collection of IBM first-generation computing hardware on display. I went back later on to have another look and saw IBM desktop machines with peripherals and printouts in the display area with advertising on the wall behind. I was crushed. I asked the docent what happened to the display I had come to see. She told me that IBM wanted to get away from its image as a stodgy old company that built big impersonal machinery and that the historical display didn't fit their marketing efforts. So they traded up.

Britain on the other hand uses the lottery to fund preservation of its technological-cultural heritage. Another favorite of mine is the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. (q.v.)

Those of us who are Americans shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the culture that produced the contents of Bletchly and Kew is the culture that, in the late 18th and early 19th century, spread a temperament of tinkering, inventinting, hacking, making, and appropriating (and technological competition) across the Atlantic. I am an American, and a tinkerer in the best sense, and so this heritage is also mine. In the US we've lost so much of our past due to redevelopment, ignorance, and simple apathy that there's very little left to see, and what there is is often deteriorating (Henry Ford Museum - Greenfield Village, Eniac).

It is the responsibility of the State to preserve cultural history. You may think otherwise, but if you do, you're wrong. The simple reason is that our heritage is not yours to destroy by sins of omission. Our heritage belongs to our children. To claim that a heritage has no value because things that belong to everyone belong to no one and thereby implicitly demonstrate a lack of value, is to make a judgement based in a fad of popular culture (greed is good) that will evolve into some other way of thinking in the future. But by that time the damage done by neglect may be irrevocable.

If we are unwilling to do the work here, I sincerely hope that the Brits can find a way to do it there before their opportunity disappears, too.

Re:doesn't solve all the problems (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#24076563)

In the US we don't seem to have much interest in our technological past.

Perhaps, but compared to the museums I saw in China a few years ago, the entire US is a veritable Smithsonian. For example, I was quite excited to visit the Xi'an Terra Cotta Warriors museum. It was laid out relatively well, but there were almost *no* explanations of anything you could see, in either Chinese or English. People would wander around, looking very quickly, but it was almost impossible to learn anything there. *Why* was a gold bowl of interest? It was beautiful, but did it belong to an Emperor? A general? A courtesan? The scale model (actual artifact) of a carriage was neat, but did it use interesting gearing? Was it used to transfer warriors to the battlefield? Where was it found? Was it supposed to look just like the full-scale ones, or were parts missing, or was it just an elaborate toy for someone? It was the same for the Forbidden City and Summer Palace in Beijing, and the Great Wall was kind of a joke.
      There are all these fabulous technological and historical artifacts in that country, but very little interest (it seemed) in teaching anyone what any of it meant, or where things came from. I think that's starting to change (a lot of the history is incorporated into everyday life, after all) for the better, at least.

Re:doesn't solve all the problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24077825)

Speaking for myself, visiting Bletchley Park was the highlight of my trip last year. There were lots of knowledgable, passionate people around to answer questions, and the displays actually had human depth.

For example: I got talking to one of the guys working on the Collossus rebuild. We ended up chatting about various stuff for around 30 minutes, and he then gave me a tour of the computing museum they're setting up (and is possibly finished... this was last year). It left the London museum of technology of whatever it was called coughing in its dust. And between that and all the other stuff there I ended up spending a good 6 hours or so just wandering round. Brilliant stuff!

A happy ending (3, Interesting)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24073985)

I am glad these historic buildings have been saved - the disrespect they had been shown drew uncomfortable parallels with what happened to Alan Turing after the war (a war which almost certainly wouldn't have been won without him)

Re:A happy ending (3, Funny)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074023)

What, the huts were persecuted for being gay by the police until they hanged themselves?

I don't recall them saying that on the tour

Re:A happy ending (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24074099)

Turing didn't hang himself. He ate an apple laced with cyanide.

Re:A happy ending (1)

Cannelloni (969195) | more than 6 years ago | (#24081335)

Really? How imaginative. A whole Macintosh?

Re:A happy ending (0)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074265)

It must be a tiresome existence not being able to appreciate metaphor.

Re:A happy ending (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24081763)

This isn't right. The concern with the huts was that they were Japanese and so might give away our secrets.

(They're Nissan huts you see).

Re:A happy ending (1)

skiddie (773482) | more than 6 years ago | (#24082273)

Actually, they're Nissen Huts [] . Named for Major Peter Norman Nissen of the 29th Company Royal Engineers.

I've always wondered where the name comes from. Now I know. Thanks Wikipedia!

Cryptonomicon (4, Informative)

FilterMapReduce (1296509) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074021)

Most Slashdotters probably don't need to be told this, but anyone interested in historical fiction about Bletchley Park shouldn't miss Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson [] . It's entertaining and rich in technical detail.

Alan Turing: The Enigma (4, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074501)

Most Slashdotters probably don't need to be told this, but anyone interested in historical fact about Bletchley Park shouldn't miss Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges. It's entertaining, rich in technical detail and, wait for it, true.

Re:Cryptonomicon (1)

zazenation (1060442) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074647)

Stephenson's detailed descriptions are VERY vivid. His extrapolation of historical characters demeanor from actual events are insightful --- Especially General Yamamoto's final moment of global realization in his crashing airplane. I was always curious though of how faithful Stephenson was to the actual layout (e.g. various connecting huts, interior layouts, etc)? Anybody on /. walk through Bletchley Park and visualize the elements in Cryptonomicon?

Re:Cryptonomicon (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#24075615)

There were some nice ideas in that book, many of them fanciful for storytelling reasons. Robert Harris's Enigma [] is also a rather enjoyable novel, and much stronger on historical accuracy.

Or try "Station X" (1)

N Monkey (313423) | more than 6 years ago | (#24081403)

Most Slashdotters probably don't need to be told this, but anyone interested in historical fiction about Bletchley Park shouldn't miss Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson [] . It's entertaining and rich in technical detail.

I also recently (re)read "Station X" by Michael Smith, which gives first hand accounts of some of the many thousands of people who worked there. There's not a lot on the actual code breaking techniques, but it is, none the less, an interesting read (IMHO).

BTW: I visited Bletchley Park some years ago and found it quite interesting and this was before they had finished building a Bombe and Collosus.

BTW2: After the Station X TV series aired, I was amazed to find out that neighbour had actually worked there as a WREN.

Visits to Bletchley Park (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24074171)

I took a class of learning disabled children to Bletchley Park a few years back - we had a great time trying on gas masks and stuff. Not a lot of money in that though, and it's not something they could easily let millions of people do. Having said that we also went to the Imperial War Museum in London - and it wasn't a patch on the Bletchley experience, and they seem to make it work.

The wooden huts surrounding a stately home are very much part of the deal - you can't really get rid of them : They really are historic. As for why it was left to rack and ruin - well that's because they just looked like old huts - no one realised they were historic. Also the work was so secret that hardly anyone had a clue what went on there until relatively recently.

Much as I'm glad it's survived though, I have to say my own kids prefer the indoor ski slope with real snow at the Sno Dome about 2 miles away. Which gives you some idea of what they're up against

But who will save the UK IT industry? (2, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074191)

You wouldn't believe we were once world leaders in the field.

I'm sorry, but if the nest we can do is Rockstar (not knocking them, just being realistic) then will the last systems designer in the UK please turn off the server before emigrating? Fortunately, I expect to retire in a couple of years. Hopefully to somewhere where Government and other systems work.

Slightly off topic, today we discovered that the UK Government new release of the on-line tax system shows the accountant name, not the actual person for whom the form is being filled in. The guy on the help desk, when asked when it would be fixed, replied "I am not at liberty to disclose that". Not only is UK Government IT incompetent, it is secretive about it. (The Editor of Computer Weekly said that on the box last week.) So

Too bad about the lottery (0)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074283)

It's too bad something like this has to be paid for with a regressive tax like the lottery. There's no reason why the poor should pay a disproportionate amount of the upkeep of this place.

Culture (2, Interesting)

Morosoph (693565) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074461)

There's certainly an irony in using lottery income to fund culture.

But there's a bigger issue here: whether culture has intrinsic value, and whether it is worth raising people up. If we fund education for its effect in raising the consciousness of the population, we should also fund culture out of general taxation. All the same, given that the lottery fund is used for cultural promotion, Bletchley Park has a pretty good claim on a slice of that funding.

One almost wonders whether lottery funding is part of a deliberate attempt to degrade ("democratise") culture.

Raising the consciousness of the population cannot easily be argued either from a democratic position, nor a capitalist one, and justifications for it in terms of appreciation after the fact are too easily misused in other contexts, except for one thing: culture has a long track record. Additionally, culture works by extending people, unlike more political 'fixes' of limiting people in a manner that politicians deem to be good.

The antigony of culture with political ideas, together with the degrading effects of democratic "philsophical" relativism is hostile not only to the recognition of culture, but also to its very existence.

Without such things as culture and the abstract search for truth, our purpose on this earth is no more than the propagation of our genes (for an atheist), or else is a waste of the talents that have been entrusted to us (for a theist).

Re:Too bad about the lottery (1, Flamebait)

couchslug (175151) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074659)

To hell with the poor! Intelligent people, not idiot slugs, got us where we are today. Enough with the tiresome worship of poor people, who by and large are poor because of personal defects. The poor, and the backwardness they wallow in, are not worthy of anything but scorn and contempt.

A memorial to the accomplishments of determined and intelligent people funded by a the stupid is fine with me.

Re:Too bad about the lottery (2, Insightful)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074757)

To hell with the poor! Intelligent people, not idiot slugs, got us where we are today.

I agree. And in the UK specifically, that was true up to about the 1960s. Since then the poor have been getting more power, more say, more pandering, and there's more of them. Actually none of them are even genuinely, technically, poor any more. But since the late 60s the UK has been in steady decline. Now we have the fattest, drunkenest and most violent children in Europe, if not the World. That's what happens when you let the poor run a country. Lowest common denominator politics.

Re:Too bad about the lottery (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074817)

It's too bad something like this has to be paid for with a regressive tax like the lottery. There's no reason why the poor should pay a disproportionate amount of the upkeep of this place.

If money is already available as part of the lottery system, why should it not be used? Since money is already set aside, with the way the lottery system was set out, heritage should be one of the places receiving money. Nothing is stopping from other people pitching in separate to the lottery money allocation, but it doesn't mean that they should be refusing the lottery money either.

One thing that is different between a regular state tax and the lottery is that people choose to buy a lottery ticket, while most people don't have a choice about the taxes they pay.

mislead? (3, Insightful)

peektwice (726616) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074485)

I guess the statement "We haven't put in an application yet" was missed by the OP. Bletchley isn't being rescued yet. They are in discussions preceding an application for the grant.

LOTTERY!?!?! (2, Insightful)

Ishikawa Goemon (21507) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074733)

I read the comments to this article just to get a joke along the lines of:

Oh the irony! A tax on those who are bad at math funding the history of the greatest mathematicians of WWII.

I am sorely disappointed, slashdotters. Was it too easy? Surely I'm not the only one that laughed at the though?

Re:LOTTERY!?!?! (1)

Myrddin Wyllt (1188671) | more than 6 years ago | (#24077731)

I'm a maths graduate myself, but I always feel a bit peeved that Turing and the mathematicians get all the attention whenever Bletchley Park is mentioned.

The actual design and build of the big machines was done by an engineer called Tommy Flowers [] , which introduces further semi-ironic coincidence as he was also responsible for designing and building ERNIE [] , the machine behind an earlier UK Government-run numbers racket

Hut 33 (2, Informative)

grizzlycub (687950) | more than 6 years ago | (#24075201)

Well there must be some interest about Bletchley in the UK; BBC Radio 4 has run two seasons of "Hut 33" a comedy about Bletchley. It's a typical WWII BBC comedy; Polish jokes, German spies, class warfare, and smutty jokes.

Fun day trip from London (2, Interesting)

MinusOne (4145) | more than 6 years ago | (#24075969)

I visited Bletchley Park a couple of years ago while on a trip to England. it was an easy day trip from London. The site is a very short walk from the train station, so no driving or bus is necessary to get there. It was a beautiful spring day when we were there and the grounds are quite lovely. They had the Colossus replica running which was very cool. The museum is quite nice as well. Later that night I met up for beers with some guys from my company's London office. They were shocked that we had made a day trip to Milton Keynes until we told them why we went. Apparently Londoners think of the area as a bit of a suburban wasteland.
I also got some cool semi-psychedelic pictures caused by a malfunctioning sensor in my digital camera.

I definitely recommend it as a place to visit if you have an afternoon in the greater London area.

Re:Fun day trip from London (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24079473)

Second that. I did a similar thing on a trip to England late last year and ended up spending pretty much the entire day there. It was great! The Colossus replica was running and was indeed very cool (even with all the heat the valves were throwing off), and I ended up in a lengthy and very informative discussion with one of the volunteers working on some bug with it at the time. Learned a lot of very interesting stuff about how they went about building it from the very sketchy details left behind after WWII.

I also went to the mandatory museums in London, but to be honest I preferred Bletchley... more relaxed atmosphere, more interesting (to me) exhibits, less rushed. Highly recommended!

Money go round (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 6 years ago | (#24076031)

There's no money from the government (aka taxpayers) to pay to keep this historic place open, but somehow there is £18,000,000,000 of taxpayer cash for an Olympic games nobody wanted (except freeloaders, crooked politicians and builders).

Some nice Bletchley shots from last year (1)

perlow (451482) | more than 6 years ago | (#24076961) []

I took these in March of 2007.

Re:Some nice Bletchley shots from last year (1)

Cannelloni (969195) | more than 6 years ago | (#24081365)

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Er, here's how the Lottery funds really work (2, Informative)

Richard Fairhurst (900015) | more than 6 years ago | (#24078029)

The summary is way off-beam. The Heritage Lottery Fund is nowhere near stepping in.

I quote: '"We are in serious discussions with the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is prime Lottery territory," said Greenish. "We haven't put in an application yet, but the rules have changed a bit which is helpful."'

Here's how HLF works. You put the application in. This is serious, serious hard work. It's not just "fill in a form and post it to PO Box Lottery". Expect to have a full-time team working on it for three months at least: and even then, really deserving projects have done exactly that and found themselves rejected.

Ok, so your application is good (and, just as important, there aren't any better ones at the time - HLF only has a finite pot of money, and in fact it's getting smaller, as the UK Government takes from it to fund the Olympics). You then get a "Stage One Pass".

This doesn't mean you have the money. This means they'll give you a small grant to help you with the cost of preparing the real application. At this point, they want to know everything: your projected finances, how it's going to benefit public access to an important bit of heritage, how you'll make it sustainable to avoid coming back for another hand-out in three years' time, the works. Remember that the Lottery funds were seriously burned in their early days by the fiasco of the Millennium Dome. They don't give it out lightly.

If you're really good, you might get through this and get the Stage Two Pass. This means you've got the money. (Where, incidentally, "the money" is probably much less than you wanted in the first place, because there's so much competition that the HLF advisors have warned you your only chance is if you lodge a lower bid.)

Oh... one more thing. HLF doesn't generally fund the entirety of a project. They give "match funding". In other words, "we'll pay 50% of the costs if you can find 50% from someone else".

So, with that in mind, allow me to rephrase the summary. "Britain's Lottery Fund has changed some rules to potentially allow these guys to apply for a grant which entitles them to prepare a proper application for a grant which might, if they're very lucky, pay for half the cost of a reduced-cost version of your total project." Sorry, not quite as catchy.

How about volunteer efforts? (1)

laddiebuck (868690) | more than 6 years ago | (#24080281)

As another Slashdotter pointed out, the main problem with the site, which one grant won't permanently fix, is that its inherent appeal is not as great as a big modern attraction such as a theme park or similar. Yet the site has great historical and emotional, and even personal value to anyone whose parents or grandparents fought in the war. It is a really crucial site, and as such many people would be interested in keeping it running.

So is it possible to keep the site running on a more long-term basis by volunteer efforts and donations? I realise this grant is something like a donation, but a grant is not really a donation. The site means a lot to many people in the UK (and other places as well); there should be a simple system to donate, or if you live nearby or have a spare weekend, a way of donating your time or even services to keeping the site running and in repair.
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