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No Museum Status For UK Home of Enigma Machine

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the but-it-won't-be-a-drive-through-restuarant-until-2012 dept.

Encryption 101

hardsix writes "Despite the numerous films, books and plays, celebrating the brilliant achievements of the code-breakers at Bletchley Park, the UK government is still dragging its feet over providing proper support for the site. There has just been a debate in the House of Lords over whether the site should be given similar status to the UK's main WWII museum — the Imperial War Museum. But the government has brushed off the request, claiming that the site has received enough funding recently. However, as was shown by a visit to the site by UK actor, and Twitter-lover Stephen Fry, although devices such as Enigma have been restored many of the huts where the code-breaking work went on are in a bad state and more investment is needed."

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So what? (3, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050247)

At one time, this thing was the most critical machine in the entire world. Should that alone be cause to save it?

In this world of plastic Tonka trucks and biodegradable Mercedes Benzii, how much extra room do we have for something that is no longer useful? Clearly our priorities aren't on preserving the past. Nor are our priorities to create anything of lasting value. Everything must be created for today to be discarded tomorrow.

Should it be any surprise that an old computing device should be disregarded? This is how we think nowadays. It's only going to be a problem if our culture ever decides that lasting meaningfulness is something we want to preserve. Otherwise, the old can go to rust in peace.

Re:So what? (2, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050323)

At one time, this thing was the most critical machine in the entire world. Should that alone be cause to save it?

Economic forces are going to decide it's fate, if the government doesn't spend enough money, if the property value is high enough, blah blah blah. Personally I don't think that's the best way to decide what stays and what goes.

What would replace it? If it's something worthwhile or absolutely necessary, then sure. If it's going to be a fucking McDonald's, then it shouldn't, there are enough of those.

If no one wants to donate money to it and it completely crumbles, then sure, build something there. But there are obviously people who want it to stay, and I think something like this will be of more long-term benefit than a strip mall. Tangible history is to me always better than retail.

Re:So what? (2, Informative)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#28052313)

If it's something worthwhile or absolutely necessary, then sure. If it's going to be a fucking McDonald's, then it shouldn't, there are enough of those.

The site is in the middle of a housing estate with not enough passing trade for a McDonalds, and there are lots of malls & shopping centres not far away, so it would most likely be houses that they'd build.

Re:So what? (3, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050371)

The same argument could be applied to anything that gets preserved beyond the time it would naturally decay, and yet governments do spend a great deal of money preserving historically significant sites and artifacts. Sometimes this is just because it makes economic sense -- I'd be willing to guess that Egypt, for instance, derives a significant portion of its GDP from archaeological tourism -- but there are also intangibles at stake, matters of national identity and collective memory. Given the number of museums scattered around the UK, it's clear that the British government understands this in many cases; the question is why they don't get it in this particular one.

Re:So what? (2, Insightful)

jabjoe (1042100) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051063)

Given the number of museums scattered around the UK, it's clear that the British government understands this in many cases; the question is why they don't get it in this particular one.

Because it's a computer, so of course it doesn't matter. Just like anything else the nerds bang on about like open standards and competition, copyright and patent reform, etc etc. We're just noise to them. I mean what do nerds know?

Re:So what? (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051689)

Because it's a computer, so of course it doesn't matter.

And a terribly obsolete one at that. It can't even run Net Hack, and not even a Beowulf cluster of them could run GLQuake let alone Crysis.

Re:So what? (5, Interesting)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050403)

No, the fact it and the work that was done at the site were the precursor to a whole new field - Computer science and the fact that arguably the most important device in existence today, the computer, were effectively born there is why it should be saved.

It's not just any old computer and it's not just any old site, it's where computer science and the sub-field of artificial intelligence became a reality.

It seems important to save the first "anything" as a celebration of our achievements. It also has a lot of inspirational value for kids when they can see how some of the things that are taken for granted today came about - it's hard to imagine how someone could invent the computer if you look at something as complex as those we use today, but if kids are shown early models they can learn more easily how the things come about.

Re:So what? (5, Informative)

Poobar (1558627) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050459)

No-one will ever disregard the machine itself- you don't even have to RTFA to see that "devices such as Enigma have been restored". The government are dragging their collective feet over whether to provide funding to restore the *site*, a collection of 70 year old ramshackle huts. The Enigma will live on, in some machine or other. Maybe it'd even be better in another museum- I imagine that the environment of the Science Museum (for instance) is better suited to keeping it in good tradition than a leaky hut in Bletchley.

RTFS (3, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050467)

"At one time, this thing was the most critical machine in the entire world. Should that alone be cause to save it?"

The machines have been restored, it's the huts where they worked that are falling down. I appreciate the signifigance of the code-breakers efforts but having travelled the length and breadth of the UK I realise you cannot go 10 feet without tripping over something with historical significance. The artifacts could be housed in an existing museam but if they want to save the huts they need to make them usefull, perhaps renovate and house a modern sigint team? From what I saw, the military in the UK often share castles/forts with the historically inquisitive.

Re:RTFS (4, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051221)

That's about the shape of it. The buildings themselves are not historically interesting: they're 1940s army huts, put up quickly and on the cheap, and never intended to last more than a few years.

The important thing to preserve is the intellectual achievement. The work of the ULTRA cryptanalysts has finally got the recognition it deserves after decades of secrecy, and it's the machines they built and the papers they wrote that I'd primarily want to see preserved. They form the very foundation of computer science - quite apart from possibly having won the war. These all need a museum dedicated to their preservation and to the job of educating visitors on the importance of all this mathematical stuff - and for that matter, on how the government ended up treating the genius behind it all, the man they owed so much.

The site itself, and the buildings? While I'd like to see them maintained too, they're in competition for funding with a quite ridiculous number of other important historical sites which are also falling into disrepair - and if it comes down to a choice of one or the other, I'd sooner preserve some fascinating example of mediaeval architecture where the building itself is of historical interest.

Re:RTFS (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#28053123)

"I'd sooner preserve some fascinating example of mediaeval architecture where the building itself is of historical interest"

I agree I had the good fortune to visit Fountains Abbey, it's ruins and the surrounding lands are orders of magnitute more awe inspiring than a few army huts. And yes, Turing is due a posthumous apology for the "sins of our fathers".

Re:RTFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28064383)

You can't go ten feet anywhere in Europe without finding something historically interesting. However, Britain simply doesn't bother. Or, more true, they keep endless near identical older buildings, and hassle owners of older houses with preservation orders, but don't bother with more modern history at all.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28050507)

"At one time, this thing was the most critical machine in the entire world. Should that alone be cause to save it?"

Yes, obviously.

Museums have a place, in history (2, Interesting)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050585)

Museums have a place, in history, i.e. contemporary history in that they preserve that past.

However, I understand that not all places that housed an ingenious activitity or scientific discovery must stand untouched. At least that is how I read the government's remarks.

The issue must be however, does one need to save the building to save he Enigma machine? I don't think so.

The Enigma machine may very well have a special place at a WWII museum or a technological museum.

However nice the environments are at Bletchely Park, they most probably were not crucial to the Enigma machine. Well, think of Bletchely Park without the Enigma and think of the Enigma without Bletchely Park.

I believe the Enigma apparatus has a greater place in Britsh history than the house itself. In fact, Alan Turing had a more important place than that house.

Well, of course one could save the house too, if one can afford it. And, that is always the real issue. Museums do have an important and functional place, in contemporary history.

Re:Museums have a place, in history (3, Interesting)

OutOfMyTree (810249) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050731)

The buildings of Bletchley Park act as a reminder of so much. The story of the codebreaking is not just that of a handful of geniuses. It is the story of the 9000 people there at its height. It is the story of the women who set up the computers, working extraordinary hours without any official knowledge of what they were achieving. It is the story of the hundreds of despatch riders who brought in at night the signals collected at the distant listening posts staffed by by small isolated groups.

It is also the story of how the 10,000 plus people who worked there at some point of the war, and the many local people who hosted them and served them in shops, pubs etc, kept the secret. There was a strong shared purpose to do what it took to win the war, even if they did not always understood how their part fitted in to the whole.

Re:Museums have a place, in history (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28050871)

In other word, it was Intelligence doing what it's supposed to do - protecting the nation from foreign threats. This is pretty much the opposite of what a modern intelligence service does (in the UK, at least). Bletchley Park acts as a reminder to all the employees of Her Majesty's security services of all the things that they are not, as they engage in government-mandated operations to surveil their own citizens and protect the interests abroad of a few well-connected groups.

Just because GCHQ is full of average Cambridge mathematicians it doesn't mean they could collectively hold a candle to the actual achievements of Turing et al. So destroy their memory and you'll have nothing to remind you on a daily basis of how corrupt, bloated, sloth-like and pedestrian you have become.

Re:Museums have a place, in history (1)

Omestes (471991) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050959)

Yes, its significant, but... The OP has a point, the Enigma machine is the BIG historical artifact, it should be preserved at all costs. As for the actual complex itself, it is important, but you must remember that funds are limited, and there might be more historic places in England (probably many many of which are much more important than this one complex). While this place, and the people who worked there were historically important, they weren't important enough to compete with places which much longer term significant (Hadrian's Wall, the various roman ruins in the city, etc...)

Personally, when I think of Bletchley park I think of Alan Turing (and fatal homophobia), and Enigma. The 10,000 other anonymous strangers fade into a indiscriminate blur. Yes, its sad, but so is the loss of memory of millions of other people who had some minor influence on history.

I'm not saying not funding the site is a great idea, but we must remember that historical momument funding is always going to be limited.

Re:Museums have a place, in history (1)

OutOfMyTree (810249) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051185)

But the story is not that of one man! What about the Poles who smuggled out an Enigma machine at the risk of their lives?

Telling the Hollywood-style highlights not only distorts the story (which nationality risked their lives in the sinking submarine?), it militates against its being repeated. We know we are not all Turings, but we can be the person who does not tell secrets they do not know the value of.

Re:Museums have a place, in history (3, Insightful)

Stuart Gibson (544632) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050825)

I'd also like to apologise on behalf of my government for driving Turing to suicide. We have much to be ashamed of.

Re:Museums have a place, in history (3, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051723)

I'd also like to apologise on behalf of my government for driving Turing to suicide. We have much to be ashamed of.

There's nothing trollish about this comment. It is broadly agreed that Turing's suicide was significantly motivated by the effects of hormone therapy he was given to "cure" his homosexuality after he was convicted of the crime of being a homosexual.

That this could happen to one of the great minds who undoubtedly helped Britain survive the war should be a cautionary reminder to anyone anywhere who thinks that giving governments or corporations or churches the power over harmless human behaviour is a good thing.

Re:Museums have a place, in history (3, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051207)

Bletchley houses more than just the Enigma though, it's home to the UK's national computing museum, the issue in the article is that it's not being put on par with the imperial war museum.

The argument then is more that the government isn't giving computing history and education the attention it deserves.

Re:Museums have a place, in history (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060075)

What do you expect, after the computer has allowed Youtube to turn the Prime Minister into a laughing stock?

A history lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28053655)

The issue must be however, does one need to save the building to save he Enigma machine? I don't think so.

I strongly agree - if for no other reason than because Enigma machines were the _German_ devices that generated the codes... The British contribution was Colossus, the electronic computing device that was developed to help break codes. What is more, the original Colossus was completely destroyed after the war in the interest of state security. What is currently housed at Bletchley Park is a replica that was finished a couple of years ago by some of the original engineers and a variety of enthusiasts (there is, of course, also an Enigma machine and some other code-breaking miscellanea).

Personally, I think that the collection and the site are worth preserving, but perhaps not in the sense of restoring the full camp. As many others have pointed out, they are temporary army huts that have long outlasted their original purpose. If a couple were restored to house the collection and provide a sense of the environment, I think that would be sufficient. The rest should probably be razed to the ground so they cease to be a burden that drags the whole effort down.

Re:So what? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28059775)

Beh. If we need it, we can run it as a virtual machine.

Inexplicable (5, Funny)

Serilleous (1400333) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050265)

Why the British government would drag is feet on something like this is an Enigma to me.

Re:Inexplicable (3, Insightful)

mpe (36238) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050315)

Why the British government would drag is feet on something like this is an Enigma to me.

Look how long it took them to do the right thing in respect of the Gurkhas. As well as the continuing foot dragging in respect of MPs' "expenses". They still do not appear to understand why the public is so offended by their actions.

Re:Inexplicable (1)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050751)

Look how long it took them to do the right thing in respect of the Gurkhas. As well as the continuing foot dragging in respect of MPs' "expenses". They still do not appear to understand why the public is so offended by their actions.

I'm completely perplexed as to why the public are so apparently offended by these, too. Especially the expenses. How so many people can get so worked up at the loss of such a comparatively small amount of money is beyond me.

Re:Inexplicable (1)

sa1lnr (669048) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050889)

And how conveniently it has shifted all the ire from the bankers too.

Re:Inexplicable (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050985)

I'm completely perplexed as to why the public are so apparently offended by these, too. Especially the expenses. How so many people can get so worked up at the loss of such a comparatively small amount of money is beyond me.

Even MPs basic pay is more than that of many people in the UK. On top of that they get rather more than the median wage (once you take into account tax, etc) as "expenses".
It certainly dosn't help either the sort of things MPs have been spending that money on.

Re:Inexplicable (4, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051195)

The issue is that if we, the public, claimed expenses on some of the items that the MPs are (such as duck houses and islands...), we would be laughed out of the building by our bosses. The other issue is that the MPs expenses can be excluded from Inland Revenue taxes, resulting in scenarios where an MP buys a 'second home' in London, expenses the mortgage for several years, and then sells the property for a profit but is exempt from Capital Gains Tax on it.

Basically, why should the MPs be subject to less rigorous rules than anyone else?

Re:Inexplicable (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28064555)

A self-employed person's expenses are exempt from tax too, if they're incurred for business purposes. Of course a much stricter test is applied to them. Look at IR35 - most MPs would fall foul of it.

The capital gains exemption is a loophole that allows anyone to switch primary and secondary residences more or less at will.

There is no special tax exemption for MPs. The issue is the ridiculous things they've been claiming.

Re:Inexplicable (3, Insightful)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 5 years ago | (#28052031)

Yeah, and I fiddled expenses to claim a few hundred quid from a multi-billion pound corporation, but they still fired me and I was still prosecuted for fraud. How my boss and the police can get so worked up at the loss of such a comparatively small amount of money is beyond me!

Re:Inexplicable (1)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28055147)

I've nothing against them being brought to book over it at all.

I'm just irked that the media has attached so much importance to this when far more money is wasted by the government elsewhere through its general desire to mismanage everything in sight.

How is it that so many more people can lose faith in parliament through them fiddling their expenses than through even just the NHS IT project?

Re:Inexplicable (0, Flamebait)

asifyoucare (302582) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050533)

Racist!

Re:Inexplicable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28064153)

Why the British government would drag is feet on something like this is an Enigma to me.

thats quite simple they would rather spend money keeping illegal immigrants in considerable comfort than the nations history , That is why we are no longer great cus we got govenrment with a wanked out outlook

Number 10 petition (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28050317)

There is also a petition to the government to help save Bletchley Park on the number 10 web site.

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/BletchleyPark/

Re:Number 10 petition (1)

cpghost (719344) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051163)

It's a pity that only UK citizens are allowed to petition, Alan Turing and BP being part of humanity's cultural heritage.

Turn a park into a museum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28050335)

Sorry but I like when green spaces stay green. Just because some smart people broke codes while sitting on a park bench doesn't mean that you should put a dome on top of it.

Re:Turn a park into a museum? (3, Informative)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050473)

Uh, what? Bletchley Park is an estate [wikipedia.org] . The buildings would be the museum, not the grass.

Re:Turn a park into a museum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28053673)

Well then call it Bletchley Estate and we can start talking. What's next, Rhode Island isn't an island?

Re:Turn a park into a museum? (1)

InfernalRuss (1180857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28057151)

Bletchley buildings doesent have the same ring to it IMHO

It may be kind of tinfoil-hat of me ... (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050349)

... but I can't help but thinking that the current British government still doesn't want to call too much attention to what their predecessors did to poor Alan Turing.

Re:It may be kind of tinfoil-hat of me ... (1)

Elky Elk (1179921) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051211)

Why? They were all children when it was done.

Re:It may be kind of tinfoil-hat of me ... (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28055493)

Hell, many of them weren't even born.

Why? I don't know. My suspicion is that it's about preserving the dignity of The Government, not the individual people involved. Never admit that The Government ever did anything wrong, ever. It's closely akin to the way people try to turn their ancestors -- or even their entire ethnic groups -- into saints, rather than dealing with the fact that they were, you know, people, and sometimes people do terrible things.

It comes as no suprise. (5, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050355)

I seriously think the government has a problem with Bletchley park in that they were responsible for it's greatest figurehead, Alan Turing's death.

Turing was one of the main founders of modern computing, one of the mathematical greats and he used his abilities to help end the war early by preventing the German war machine keeping it's military secrets, undoubtedly many lives are owed to him.

Of course, for those that don't know his story, in the 50s he was convicted of being gay, something that was illegal at the time and was forced into hormone therapy to try and "cure" him of his homosexuality. This effected the one thing he had and held dearly - his mind, and so he committed suicide (or possibly was assassinated, but that seems unlikely) in 1954.

To this day I believe the British governments through the ages have failed to accept that their parties were responsible for the death of one of the greatest Britons of all time, and I believe the shunning of Bletchley park is a continuation of their refusal to accept that they are at fault for both Turing's death and the lack of realisation of how important Turing and Bletchley was to the British war effort.

At school we're taught about some of the greatest British engineers of all time such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, we're taught about our kings and queens, we're taught about our greatest military leaders, our greatest industrialists, but there is not a single mention of our computer scientists. If you killed loads of people in the name of Britain you'll be fine, if you helped push colonialism across the world you'll go down in history, but if you invent or help to invent the computer? arguably the single most important device of the last 50 years? Good luck your story every being well known.

The fact is, for over 60 years the successive British governments have failed computer science in the UK despite it being one of the most important countries in the world when it comes to it's developmental history from Turing to Berners-Lee to Ive (the guy who designed the iMac and iPod). The decision mentioned in the article is just further evidence of how backwards and ignorant the British government is - it cares about only a few minor sectors such as banking, and look how well that has done us - whilst the likes of Google were announcing record profits, banks had effectively failed. I believe this ignorance and a refusal to foster and support the field has cost the UK an IT industry that could truly have rivalled that of silicon valley.

Re:It comes as no suprise. (5, Funny)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050489)

Of course the British Government would refuse to pay for maintaining a mueseum of The Building That Won The War.
They need the money to pay for:
1) Dog shampooing fees
2) Maintaining-a-mistress-fee
3) Swimming-pool renovation fee
4) Limos for Restaurants and waiting charges
5) Movie and Opera tickets and taxi cabs
Why would today's MPs be interested in maintaining History when they can pad up their pockets with all these goodies with that money?
Britain needs a Michael Moore: one who not only shames the MPs and Ministers of both parties but results in their permanent explusion and conviction for fraud and theft.

Re:It comes as no suprise. (2, Interesting)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050767)

We [taxpayersalliance.com] have [order-order.com] some [private-eye.co.uk] .

Of course they're not quite Michael Moore in that they're more concerned with exposing wrongdoing than endless self-promotion.

Many people have been ousted this year thanks to Guido and the Torygraph, on both sides of the House. The Private Eye and Ian Hislop in particular in his spot on Have I Got News For You are good at keeping the great and *cough* good *cough* uncomfortable. And the mainstream press aren't too bad either, with the Grauniad and Torygraph keeping Governments of right and left respectively on their toes most of the time, with the Independent taking the occasional pot-shot at anyone. The Times is a Murdochian waste of space though.

Re:It comes as no suprise. (2, Interesting)

tpholland (968736) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050887)

And they also need to pay for:

6) Over half a million pounds for the National Codes Centre at Bletchley Park

http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/news/docview.rhtm/571874 [bletchleypark.org.uk]

An announcement from March 2009. The funding came via a government body called English Heritage [wikipedia.org] whose remit is to fund historical monuments and heritage centres.

The story here is that the government refused to provide funding on the basis that they were already providing funding.

Re:It comes as no suprise. (2, Funny)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051219)

The story here is that the government refused to provide funding on the basis that they were already providing funding.

But the same government did NOT refuse to provide funding to MP's and ministers for their various "expenses" on the basis they were already receiving 6-figure incomes...

Mark Thomas (2, Insightful)

footnmouth (665025) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051137)

but he annoys too many people to be effective.

http://www.markthomasinfo.com/ [markthomasinfo.com]
I have to admit I find him amusing, even if I don't agree with all his politics...

Re:Mark Thomas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28051233)

I have to agree, the problem with Mark Thomas is that he's slightly to the left of Mao.

Re:It comes as no suprise. (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051595)

I guess we have the Daily Telegraph for that.

Re:It comes as no suprise. (1)

iapetus (24050) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051953)

Britain needs a Michael Moore

Why? Do we have a genuine shortage of somewhat dishonest documentary makers who twist the facts so badly that it distorts the validity of the point they're trying to make?

Re:It comes as no suprise. (4, Insightful)

iworm (132527) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050515)

I have no mod points today, so I say "Well said!"

Spot on. I'm about as far from being a gay-rights activist as it's possible to be, but the way Alan Turing was treated and, in effect, hounded to his suicide, is something of which we should be deeply ashamed.

The man was brilliant, patriotic and saved countless lives. Yet because he fancied men he ended up dead. Apart from the personal tragedy for him and his loved ones, the world lost a man who still had years of potentially great work head of him. One can only be thankful that, in many countries today, this would not be repeated.

Re:It comes as no suprise. (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050529)

It's debatable, but if he had been straight it is possible that all of those good things would have come to pass.

Re:It comes as no suprise. (1)

clap_hands (320732) | more than 5 years ago | (#28055323)

I'm about as far from being a gay-rights activist as it's possible to be

You're Fred Phelps?

Re:It comes as no suprise. (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050839)

I seriously think the government has a problem with Bletchley park in that they were responsible for it's greatest figurehead, Alan Turing's death.

No they weren't. A previous government was. We get to elect a new one every 4-5 years. Gordon Brown's government holds none of the responsibility for the death of Alan Turing. Neither did Tony Blair's, John Major's, Margaret Thatcher's, James Callaghan's or either of Harold Wilson's.

Re:It comes as no suprise. (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051007)

You're suggesting that a government party exists only of the people in it and nothing more.

Following that logic one would suggest that should the Nazi party arise in Germany we should accept them because the people in the original Nazi party are no longer part of it, effectively people in it might call themselves Nazis but we shouldn't connect them to the past in anyway because they weren't there themselves. It's not that simple, a party has to accept that it has a past and it has to deal with that.

A party is more than just the people in it, parties have history and they are responsible for apologising for that history if it is bad and if they have not done so. This is particularly so as parties will continuously bring up the past in their favour when it comes to promoting themselves - The Conservatives for example will regularly mention Churchill, Wilberforce and so on as some of their great historical successes and as such they must also accept their historical failings, this goes for all parties.

The only way a group of politicians can shed their past is if they form a new party and hence lose the old identity, but if they wish to use that old identity in their favour, such that it gives them easy recognition, they must also accept it's past comes as part of that package and take responsibility for that.

Re:It comes as no suprise. (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051559)

You're Godwinning yourself a bit there. The Neo-Nazi movement is openly pushing the policies of the original Nazi party. The current labour party has no policies of homosexual persecution, and as such carries no "guilt by having the same name" that you argue is significant. Even so, it was the Conservative party in power at the time of Turings persecution, so that argument fails even on its own terms.

Whatever way you cut it, you are culpable for your own actions, not the action of your ancestors. If someone started a party today called the Nazi party and had policies of tolerance, inclusiveness and equality, they would have a grossly ill-chosen name, but would still carry no burden of responsibility for the actions of the third reich.

Re:It comes as no suprise. (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28052501)

"You're Godwinning yourself a bit there. The Neo-Nazi movement is openly pushing the policies of the original Nazi party."

That's a half-truth at best. The Neo-Nazi movement has no interest in many of the political policies of the original Nazi party, only an interest in using it's banner as a figurehead for their racist and homophobic campaigns. The problem is the the nationalist socialist movement had far more too it than just what it most infamously known for. As you're no doubt aware though my original comment was just an example hypothetical analogy to demonstrate the point and taking it as anything more than that is bound to lead to problems.

"The current labour party has no policies of homosexual persecution, and as such carries no "guilt by having the same name" that you argue is significant. Even so, it was the Conservative party in power at the time of Turings persecution, so that argument fails even on its own terms."

Both parties still have members that still support and vote in a way that ensure homosexuality isn't treated fairly. Can they be held responsible directly for the specific individual Alan Turing's death? No, sure, but whilst they refuse to apologise for their parties past policies that led to that and whilst they continue to contain politicians, some often high up in the parties that support those policies then they absolutely can be held responsible for the policies that led to Turing's death because there is still a sizeable group that agree with those policies. You only have to look at more recent votes on the likes of adoption for gay couples that met massive resistance and the fact that there is no gay marriage in the UK to see that anti-homosexual sentiment and the belief that they should not be treated equally is still strong in these parties.

I believe I understand the argument you're trying to make as it is much like that that comes up with the idea that the leadership in countries such as Britain should apologise to African nations for slavery but in this case I agree that an apology is not due. The differences are that there is no sentiment that slavery is acceptable amongst the leadership today (whilst there is sentiment that homosexuality is wrong to this day), it is also the case that it was the leadership of many of those African nations that sold their population as slaves so are complicit in it themselves, and the final difference is that Britain has already acted to apologise for the slave trade in that it was one of, if not the leading force in doing away with it and forcing other countries to do away with it.

Effectively I agree that you can't be held accountable for your ancestors past but you can be held accountable for the policies that led to that situation if you haven't shown that you've entirely done away with that mindset and point of view. Neither Labour nor the Conservatives have done this when it comes to homosexuality and the fact that they have never acknowledged that what their policies did to Turing was wrong is just part of the evidence that they themselves still don't totally disagree with those policies in their entirety. If they really want to show themselves as progressive they need to draw a line under it and say yes, it was wrong, no we wholeheartedly don't support that viewpoint anymore. They have yet to do this and accept that their party lines were ever wrong in this respect.

Re:It comes as no suprise. (1)

omz13 (882548) | more than 5 years ago | (#28052409)

The fact is, for over 60 years the successive British governments have failed computer science in the UK despite it being one of the most important countries in the world when it comes to it's developmental history from Turing to Berners-Lee to Ive (the guy who designed the iMac and iPod). The decision mentioned in the article is just further evidence of how backwards and ignorant the British government is - it cares about only a few minor sectors such as banking, and look how well that has done us - whilst the likes of Google were announcing record profits, banks had effectively failed. I believe this ignorance and a refusal to foster and support the field has cost the UK an IT industry that could truly have rivalled that of silicon valley.

The problem is that whilst a lot of good ideas, inventions, and designs have come from the UK, the UK Government has failed to exploit them. One could almost take the view the the government has almost gone out of its way to ensure that they failed. The situation is compounded by the lack of entrepreneurial spirit.

I have a feeling that the problem with Betchley is that no MPs really understand its importance... after all, how many MPs have a computing or crypro background?

Re:It comes as no suprise. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28064571)

I seriously think the government has a problem with Bletchley park in that they were responsible for it's greatest figurehead, Alan Turing's death.

You're reading way too much into it. Most of the government don't know who he was. Half of them probably don't know what WW2 was, and the other half think it was shameful and racist to oppose "European unity".

Inexplicable (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050357)

At one time, this thing was the most critical machine in the entire world. Should that alone be cause to save it?In this world of plastic Tonka trucks and biodegradable Mercedes Benzii, how much extra room do we have for something that is no longer useful? Clearly our priorities aren't on preserving the past. Nor are our priorities to create anything of lasting value. Everything must be created for today to be discarded tomorrow.Should it be any surprise that an old computing device should be disregarded? T

Re:Inexplicable (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 5 years ago | (#28052005)

The machine is saved. The documentation and notes are saved. Everything is saved, and on display, apart from the old 40s Army huts built to house some of the development. That's it. Quick, throw-away, temporary Army huts. *sniff*

Re:Inexplicable (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28053875)

Nearly correct. The machine wasn't saved (Colossus was destroyed after the war in the name of secrecy). Much of the documentation wasn't saved (it was burned, see above). However, Colossus has been painstakingly rebuilt and a number of other artifacts have been collected, so yes, there is a collection.

There is some rational behind saving at least some of the huts. They provide a historical context that informs about the conditions under which the work was carried out. There are many fascinating pieces of history that are lost because they were originally designed to be "thrown away". For example, the gliders built to silently drop troops into France the night before D-Day are a fascinating footnote in aviation and military history, yet none of them survive today (other than replicas and various pieces). That is because every one that was built was deployed and they were designed to crash land and spring apart so the Jeep inside could be driven out.

Bletchley is NOT the 'home of the Enigma' (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28050389)

IT was the home of the Colossus, which could decode messages encoded by the Enigma machines:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bletchley_park#Cryptanalysis [wikipedia.org]

Please try and get the simple stuff right. It's what being a geek is about.

Re:Bletchley is NOT the 'home of the Enigma' (3, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050855)

Please try and get the simple stuff right. It's what being a geek is about.

Well, in that case, Colossus was built to break Lorenz. A teletype cypher. Enigma was attacked using electro-mechanical devices known as bombes.

Re:Bletchley is NOT the 'home of the Enigma' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28051151)

Bletchley has an Enigma machine on show. Nobody said that it was invented or even used there, just that Bletchley is its current 'home'.

Enigma preserved (4, Interesting)

earlymon (1116185) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050457)

This article made me wonder what had happened to the stolen one... it was returned, after all.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/tvs-paxman-sent-stolen-enigma-machine-634351.html [independent.co.uk]

Well - first we have doubt about Tesla's surviving to become a museum, and now this. However it goes for BP - and I do hope that it can be saved as a museum, here's a little reminder of a site that many /.ers know about - http://www.xat.nl/enigma-e/index.htm [www.xat.nl]

The spirit of the machine will continue to thrive, it seems. I hope the same is true of BP, where Turing & company changed things for so many.

Why? (1)

randomsearch (1207102) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050461)

What is going on here? Why are we neglecting Bletchley Park?

As a Brit and a CS PhD student, I am absolutely appalled by the Government's behaviour. Do they not understand, or are they trying to ignore what happened to Turing?

Surely, the time has come for some form of protest? Anyone got any ideas?

RS

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28050569)

How about filling the moats of the MPs homes up with discarded punch cards?

Re:Why? (1)

JohnBailey (1092697) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050679)

How about filling the moats of the MPs homes up with discarded punch cards?

Personally, I'd go for something more regularly discarded and far more fragrant. Not to mention fully biodegradable.

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

tpholland (968736) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050833)

Bletchley Park is not particularly neglected— they're canny fundraisers and this is a good way of drumming up some publicity.

As a Brit and a CS PhD student, you should definitely visit if you're passing near Milton Keynes. There is a museum there; I've been and it's a really great one. The article title is just plain misleading—what actually happened is that they weren't given the same national status as the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

More cash for them would of course be nice, but the evidence if you visit says they're not doing badly without it.

Re:Why? (1)

sa1lnr (669048) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051169)

As an old fart Brit I can tell you that successive UK governments have treated science and engineering with disdain, favouring financial services and property ownership over all. Look how well that has worked out for us. ;)

Enigma THIS (3, Funny)

Talisman (39902) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050497)

UK government members received this message shortly after the news that they wouldn't be funding the upkeep of Bletchley Park:

"Hp gvdl zpvstfmg, qbsmjbnfou."

ROT13 (5, Funny)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050539)

For those of you not familiar with ROT13, that deciphers to:

"Uc tiqy mcifgszt, dofzwoasbh."

No money left (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050665)

It has all been spent on trying to repair the damage wrought by greedy bankers.

But there is more to it than that, Bletchley park has been crying out for money for years and has been ignored over a long time. Very few politicians have a scientific background and don't understand or care about this sort of thing.

Investment? (1)

tomohawk (1187855) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050759)

What rate of return would this investment receive?

Don't get me wrong - there's huge historical significance here - but only politicians use weasel words like 'investment' to describe state grants.

Re:Investment? (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050897)

You haven't kept up with the story elsewhere.

Basically, Bletchley Park wants to be a museum. This is a significant attraction and would make it a lot of money. The House of Lords transcripts show that *everybody* recognises this. The trouble is, until it gets there (which may be several years), it can't afford to fund itself without what basically amounts to charity from third-parties.

Once it's an "official" museum, and it has spent the money it needs on re-building the falling down parts, it can attract thousands of visitors a year, and keep itself ticking over. Until then, they are just throwing money away on basic maintenance.

It *should* be a museum, or at the very least a permanently-funded attraction. It's probably one of the most humanitarian British achievements in centuries. They crunched numbers, invented great mathematics and the entire field of Computer Science, saved lives and ended wars by the application of skill and knowledge. What better inspiration can there be to a modern generation? Nobody was assassinated, no countries were trampled over, no indiginous peoples were wiped out by the work done there (which is already better than 99% of English history).

A post office engineer, a few mathematicians, a whole new invention, application of sheer brain power, whole new areas of science and mathematics discovered, a handful of people to flick switches and they save millions of lives and bring a war to an end without hurting *anyone*. For God's sake, what more do you need to stick the entire place into a big glass box and preserve it for a thousand years?

Re:Investment? (3, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#28053197)

bring a war to an end without hurting *anyone*

I think many dead Germans would beg to differ. Bletchley Park didn't decrypt messages so they could catch unicorns in giant butterfly nets, they did it so that they could locate and sink German convoys, and outmaneuver and crush German forces.

Also, this:

They crunched numbers, invented great mathematics and the entire field of Computer Science

is not exactly true. The mathematics was done in Poland, and Bombes weren't computers at all. Bombes were essentially high-speed, motorized Enigmas with a circuit that tested the output against a cribbed value. The Colossus machines at Bletchley Park were computers, but weren't Turing-complete and were roughly contemporary with both Zuse' work in Germany (the Z3 was the first programmable electronic computer) and ENIAC (the first Turing-complete computer) development in the US.

As for computer science more generally, Turing was crucial to its development, but much of his key work was done before the war, not at Bletchley Park. Meanwhile, many other key ideas came from elsewhere, both before and during the war, including the work of Claude Shannon and John von Neumann.

The work at Bletchley Park was hugely important to ending the war, and a lot of very clever people worked very hard to break Enigma messages on an industrial scale, but most of what they did had no non-war value.

I think it's worth preserving, but let's not overstate the case.

Re:Investment? (1)

clap_hands (320732) | more than 5 years ago | (#28055649)

The mathematics was done in Poland

. Well, not really. As a couple of examples, Banburismus and many of the techniques used against the German teletype ciphers were novel applications of maths to cryptanalysis developed at Bletchley.

It's a fine museum--visit if you're in the area! (4, Interesting)

tpholland (968736) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050795)

I visited the Bletchley Park museum last time I was in Milton Keynes on business. As you'll see from the link in the article, it's a fascinating site and an interesting collection, complete with reconstructions of the Bombe and Collossus. The place seems in pretty good shape and pretty well supported; lots of plaques announcing funding from big corporates (IBM, I seem to remember)—better funded, certainly, than a lot of museums.

It recently got a grant from English Heritage, the UK government agency responsible for supporting museums and sites of historical interest. This story is about it not getting a direct grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (but that's not how most of our museums are funded anyway).

You can't preserve everything.. (1)

Dynamoo (527749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28050939)

I went to BP recently and it is actually an excellent place to visit.

It was clear that it is the huts that are decaying rather than the whole place. These were temporary buildings put up in the 1940s so they were never meant to last this long. The problem is this: what can you really do with a building like that which is nearly 70 years old? The huts that have been renovated appear to have been largely rebuilt, so they don't genuinely feel like the real thing.

These huts are historically significant, but then so are a lot of other WW2 sites that have since been demolished. In fact, the vast majority of temporary buildings on the BP site were cleared away decades ago. Is there anything to gain by maintaining these essentially un-maintainable structures?

Since the work at BP became public (in the 1980s!), a great deal of effort has been made to document what went on there, acknowledge the roles of individuals and teams and to make clear what a crucial effect it had on the outcome of the war. Original Enigma and Lorenz machines are on display, plus a rebuild of Colossus, the Bombes and other equipment. Most of the museum is housed in good old-fashioned brick buildings that are not going to fall down any time soon. The work at BP will not be forgotten no matter what happens to the huts. I'm not saying that BP doesn't need money.. they clearly do, but maybe the huts are not the way to go.

Somebody said in another post that you can't go very far in the UK (especially the part where I live) without tripping over something of historical significance (if I turn around I can see the hangars where the built the R101, for example). We can't preserve everything, and I think perhaps with BP this is also the case.

it's the money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28051023)

if stephen fry and his like are so concerned then he and his contacts could easily raise the funds necesary to keep this thing up-to-date and repaired. the gov't shouldn't be relied on for everything.

Wardenclyffe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28051029)

Anyone on L.I. or in N.Y., there is an event scheduled on May 30 to Save Tesla's Wardenclyffe Laboratory [savewardenclyffe.com] .

well... (1)

nozzo (851371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28051243)

I've been there a few times. It's so sad that our government do not credit this place with the importance that it deserves. WWII would have lasted longer and many more lives lost without Bletchley Park - surely that's worth investment? The people there as so dedicated and the exhibits so fascinating I would hate for this to go. The Labour Party should be ashamed of themselves. I personally have donated and buy year season tickets in order to help out. If I had spare time I would volunteer my time and IT expertise FOC. And yet they seem to have no problem in paying for MP's moats, duck houses, overpriced furniture etc etc etc - talk about priorites. I've finished now.

Put your money where your mouth is (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28065407)

I've been there a few times.

Ditto, from over 500 miles away. (OK, the parents live only 40 miles away, so it's not really that extreme a trip [G].)

If I had spare time I would volunteer my time and IT expertise FOC.

Put your money where your mouth is - sign up as a "Friend of Bletchley Park" [bletchleypark.org.uk] , which provides them with a steady income stream (your subscription, plus whatever you decide on as a regular commitment - I'm in for GBP20/year), another body to include in the count when they say to government (and other) funding bodies that "we have so-many supporters, in addition to so-many-else visitors per year", and provides you with a moderately interesting magazine and a nice warm feeling in the electrons of your main processor (or your coolant/ nutrient pump, if that's what makes you tick).

What - you're still hesitating? Which part of

"If I had spare time I would volunteer my time and IT expertise FOC."

did you actually mean? Or did you only intend to contribute time, and not something of tangible utility?

BTW - when I offered them my PDP-11, including delivery from over 500 miles away - they weren't interested. "Got 5 already, mate" was the gist of the response. Oh well, it's living with a nerd in Stirling now, TTBOMK.

Re:Put your money where your mouth is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28068023)

Like I say I've donated and naturally always sign the tax-back forms to get the season ticket.
If I wasn't so busy which currently means I have no spare time at the weekends you'll find me there as a volunteer. In response to your comment; During one visit I was talking to one of the staff there he said they sometimes need no more than peoples time. Some of the exhibits were closed (cinema, Churchill collection) as they didn't have anyone to cover the staffing of them.
I actually didn't know about the Friends of BP so a genuine thanks for the link. I'll be signing up.

Fi8sNt post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28051605)

an arduous GAY NIGGER.S FROM diWscussions on direct orders, or

Poles cracked the enigma not Brits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28051683)

Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski did it. That's why the UK government can't be bother with the whole thing too much.

Polish researches (1)

zdzichu (100333) | more than 5 years ago | (#28053143)

Enigma was broken by Polish cryptographers, not UK ones. British government isn't happy to announce that fact.

Re:Polish researches (1)

clap_hands (320732) | more than 5 years ago | (#28055497)

A Polish patriotic myth, I'm afraid. While you're correct to say that Enigma was broken by the Polish, it was *also* broken by the British.

Enigma wasn't an egg: one broken, always broken. On the contrary, you had to find the keys every time they changed, which was at least daily. Worse, the Germans upgraded Enigma with a series of security features between 1932 and 1945 that severely complicated cryptanalysis. By mid-1940, the Polish techniques were obsolete, and so the British invented new ones.

All that's just a long way of saying that there's plenty of glory to go around.

Re:Polish researches (1)

monopole (44023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28055603)

The Poles worked out the basic algorithm, Bletchley Park provided the technology to practically implement the algorithm in a timely manner as well as deal with changes in the Enigma code as the war progressed (as well as spot errors in the German encryption protocol, and exploit captured codebooks and machines such as when the U505 was captured).

A socialistic travesity (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 5 years ago | (#28053691)

What do you expect from a socialist government who, if it had been in power before and during the war, would have given in to Hitler's regime. These are the same morons who believe active intelligence (as opposed to passive) is uncouth. To them, preserving this watershed moment in history would be akin to glorifying war. It's no different than people who monday-morning-qb the dropping of the atomic bomb. To them I say that act saved more than a million lives because the Japanese were fully prepared for an Allied invasion.

Re:A socialistic travesity (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28065353)

What do you expect from a socialist government who,

Who? Socialistic government? In Britain? Have you seen the bastards?

To call the present government "socialistic" is to show a profound, almost clinical, lack of understanding of what socialism is. they're just another bunch of thieving, lieing fucking politicians.

I've just filled out my postal vote for the UK's elections to Europe, while watching a Party Political Broadcast for the British Nazi Party. The only thing that prevented me from returning the ballot paper "spoiled" was the desire to not give those fuckers even the tiniest semblance of credibility. so the only bunch of thieving, lieing fucking politicians that I could bring myself to vote for were the Liberals. Oh, the shame of it!

Pity that Sheridan and co imploded so badly.

Oh well, time to post the vote.

Second homes are VITAL to security interests! (1)

xymog (59935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28055089)

The British government can't spare the funds for a Bletchley Park program. It's too busy funding second homes, moat cleanings, servants, and X-rated films for its MPs. Let's get priorities straight, shall we?

Slashdotters - buy bletchley a beer (1)

Channing (514228) | more than 5 years ago | (#28057677)

Perhaps if everyone in the slashdot community donated the price of a beer to the cause it will give Bletchley the resources needed for it survive, and show the British Government that people care about it.

OT: Hut 33 comedy (1)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060467)

OT: Hut 33 is a brilliant comedy by the BBC set during the era of code-cracking Bletchley Park http://wapedia.mobi/en/Hut_33 [wapedia.mobi]
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