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Restored Bletchly Park Opens

Unknown Lamer posted about a month and a half ago | from the things-to-see dept.

United Kingdom 51

Graculus (3653645) writes with this excerpt from the BBC: Codebreakers credited with shortening World War Two worked in Bletchley Park, in structures built to last only a few years. Now, following a painstaking restoration, they have been brought back to life and Wednesday's official opening marks a remarkable turnaround from top secrecy to world wide attraction. With no photographs of the insides to work with, Bletchley Park looked to its most valuable resource — the veterans who worked there. A museum at the site has already been opened. The structures were once perilously close to being lost forever (until Google stepped in).

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Those sheds are sheds (5, Insightful)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a month and a half ago | (#47263917)

The sheds are (or were) rotton old sheds. Interesting stuff may happened in them, but they're still sheds.

The crown jewel of Bletchley is the national museum of computing, which is apparently treated like shit by the people who control the property and think the manor is the good bit. It isn't.

Re:Those sheds are sheds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264157)

Kate was already there cracking codes. [yahoo.com] Who knew?

Re:Those sheds are sheds (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about a month and a half ago | (#47265591)

Right. I've been there, but back in 2002, before they got real money. The people giving tours are obsessed with the buildings. The sheds are, indeed, sheds - temporary buildings built during WWII. Even the manor house isn't architecturally significant. It's only a Grade II listed building, along with about 300,000 other Grade II listed buildings in the UK.

Nobody seems to be interested in the room at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton where von Neumann had the EDVAC [wikipedia.org] built. It's a storeroom now. The EDVAC was a real general purpose computer, with the "von Neumann architecture" all later computers followed.

"Colossus" and the bombes were special-purpose machines for crypto key testing, like the ASICs used for Bitcoin mining. They really belong to the separate history of digital special-purpose machines, such as SIGSALY (digital voice encryption), Reservisor (travel reservations), American Totalizators's racetrack hardware, Teleregister's stock exchange and inventory control hardware, and Western Union's message switching systems. All that stuff is obsolete and forgotten.

Re:Those sheds are sheds (2)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a month and a half ago | (#47269851)

The EDVAC was a real general purpose computer, with the "von Neumann architecture" all later computers followed.

The contract to build EDVAC was signed in Aprl 1946, it was delivered in August 1949 and started work in 1951,

Meanwhile, Baby was running in June 1948, EDSAC was running in May 1949 and Pilot ACE was running in May 1950.

So "all later computers followed"?

Re:Those sheds are sheds (2)

fellip_nectar (777092) | about a month and a half ago | (#47270135)

So "all later computers followed"?

Technically, that's a true statement regardless of whether it was the first...

Re:Those sheds are sheds (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a month and a half ago | (#47270161)

Only if Baby (ancestor of the Manchester Mark 1, which spawned Ferranti Mark 1, the world's first commercially available general-purpose computer), EDSAC (ancestor of the LEO, the first computer used for commercial operations) and Pilot ACE (ancestor of the Bendix G15, an early washing machine) had no impact on later computing developpment.

EDVAC's major introduction to the world of computing was the destructive patent dispute.

Re:Those sheds are sheds (1)

fellip_nectar (777092) | about a month and a half ago | (#47270611)

Yeah, my bad for skimming your post. I assumed the quoted text was an independent statement, and didn't take it into its proper context.

Bletchley, not Bletchly! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47263941)

I guess you guys will never learn to proofread your headlines.

Re:Bletchley, not Bletchly! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264057)

I guess you guys will never learn to proofread your headlines.

As we translate from British English to American English we drop some of the unnecessary characters, dropping a silent e is common. ;-)

Re:Bletchley, not Bletchly! (3, Funny)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264119)

Where is the honououour in that?

Re:Bletchley, not Bletchly! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264235)

Where is the honououour in that?

Its not about honor, its about keeping our coded messages shorter. :-)

Re:Bletchley, not Bletchly! (1)

TWX (665546) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264261)

Lik ths? I cn typ wt lss ltrs nd b undrstndbl 2.

Hodor! (1)

Imazalil (553163) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264303)

That's really good, you're making great progress. keep at it old boy!

Re:Bletchley, not Bletchly! (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264323)

That's why your whisky is crap.

Re:Bletchley, not Bletchly! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264405)

That's why your whisky is crap.

That's why we drink Bourbon instead. :-)

Re:Bletchley, not Bletchly! (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about a month and a half ago | (#47266167)

All Bourbon is whiskey.

[Just not all whiskey is Bourbon.]

Re:Bletchley, not Bletchly! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47266349)

Woosh.

BTW, when you see two bottles. One labeled whisky and one labeled bourbon. Drink the bourbon.

Now go re-read the grandparent post.

Re:Bletchley, not Bletchly! (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264125)

It's a trendy new spelling to attract today's youth!

Re:Bletchley, not Bletchly! (1)

TWX (665546) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264273)

Hmmm... Last time I checked, "trendy" and "spelling" didn't go together, especially with "youth"...

Codebreakers (-1, Offtopic)

Gunhandbags (3698803) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264009)

I would love to see this place. My Dad was a Codebreaker stationed on Panama. I think there must have been Codebreakers all over the place. He didn't talk much about what he did. It seems many WW2 vets were/are quiet about the war. Thanks for bringing attention to this important role in the war. Mary at www.gunhandbags.com , proud daughter of a Codebreaker and supporter of 2nd amendment

Re:Codebreakers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264305)

Kudos to your Dad. Less so for you using him as an opportunity to spam your questionable products. Downmodded

It makes one wonder. (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264087)

In seventy years time people might well be restoring the Utah Data Center as a monument to the War on Terror.
Although unpopular (/phony) wars do tend to get less monuments I guess.

Re:It makes one wonder. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264163)

I think it should be kept as a monument for the same reason nazi concentration camps were...maybe in the future we can learn to not do the same thing again.

Re:It makes one wonder. (1)

TWX (665546) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264295)

I doubt it. For monuments to war to be successful there has to be a clear villain for the population to unite against. Like the War on Drugs, the War on Terror doesn't really have a clearly defined set of opponents, especially as the War seems to turn inward to affect us even more than it turns outward.

Re: It makes one wonder. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264455)

especially as the War seems to turn inward to affect us even more than it turns outward.

Pretty much as was intended from the beginning.

I'm so confused how to feel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264179)

I want to be Slashdot PC on this, but I don't know what side I'm supposed to take. Do we hate this because they were code breakers? Do we like them because it was a long time ago and so we consider them good code breakers, you know, before all this "imperialism" stuff started? Do we hate them because they obviously thought very little of the basic human rights of the Germans on whom they were eavesdropping? Do we like them because Turing worked there? Do we hate them because of how Turing was treated?

I need to get this out there because we need to come to consensus because it either has to be all love or all hate; I'm itching to climb my mountaintop and hurl invectives calling into question the moral turpitude of anyone who disagrees with me, but I don't know which mountaintop I'm supposed to climb! I'm thinking hate because the people who worked there obviously had no morals given that they willingly went and worked for an organization that spies on people. I think we can all agree on that, correct? It is just too bad that it is too late to send those bastards to jail for something.

Re:I'm so confused how to feel (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264217)

They were spying on the militaries of countries they were at war with, nothing morally questionable about that.

Re:I'm so confused how to feel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264329)

So how did they ensure they were only spying on just other militaries? Also, they didn't care about rooting out spies on the homeland either? I'm amazed at the technical capabilities they had to not intercept any civilian traffic at all.

Re:I'm so confused how to feel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264425)

It's easy when civilians aren't broadcasting on frequencies reserved for military use. Listen on the bands that contain only military information and you will intercept only military information.

Re:I'm so confused how to feel (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264505)

So how did they ensure they were only spying on just other militaries? Also, they didn't care about rooting out spies on the homeland either? I'm amazed at the technical capabilities they had to not intercept any civilian traffic at all.

Given that their hardware was purpose built, this was before general purpose computing, to specifically crack German military cipher machines the civilian traffic was not at great risk.

Re:I'm so confused how to feel (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a month and a half ago | (#47269863)

German military cipher machines were small variants of the commercial "Enigma" cipher machine.

Re:I'm so confused how to feel (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a month and a half ago | (#47269985)

German military cipher machines were small variants of the commercial "Enigma" cipher machine.

The additional wheels and the plugboard did not constitute a minor change. While it was certainly possible to break the simpler commercial machine if one could break the harder military machine, the fact remains that the "computer" used by the British was purpose built for a single task. It was not reprogrammable for the simpler commercial machine, a hardware rebuild would have been necessary.

Re:I'm so confused how to feel (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a month and a half ago | (#47270073)

the fact remains that the "computer" used by the British was purpose built for a single task. It was not reprogrammable for the simpler commercial machine, a hardware rebuild would have been necessary.

No, the commercial Enigma was effectively a sub-set of the military Enigmas - a Bombe would have no problem with the lack of the plug-board (it would just be one possible setting of the plug-board: no letters swapped). The four-rotor Enigma only came into use in 1942 and the army continued to use the three rotor machines.

The US Navy Bombe contained 16 four-rotor Enigma-analogues and was much faster than the British three-rotor Bombes, even for a three-rotor task.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombe [wikipedia.org]

When you say "computer" I get the feeling you are confusing the Collosus with the Bombes, and although Collosus was not a stored program machine it could be "reprogrammed" for different tasks by changing switches and plugs, and was used for more than one task.

Re:I'm so confused how to feel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47265031)

Oh, and before I forget, you clearly are a government shill, so eat shit and die you stasist sonofabitch.

Re:I'm so confused how to feel (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a month and a half ago | (#47265387)

They were spying on the militaries of countries they were at war with

They were spying on British Citizens too... If you went to your shortwave in your attic and typed out a coded message that you sent across the Channel to occupied Europe, Bletchley Park would decode it.

I'm so confused how to feel (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264567)

... we consider them good code breakers, you know, before all this "imperialism" stuff started? ...

Actually they were literally imperial code breakers serving the British Empire.

Re:I'm so confused how to feel (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about a month and a half ago | (#47266191)

Codes are just DRM, so I'm pretty sure we hate them...unless we're using them for anonymity or security, in which case we love them...unless they're protecting State secrets...in which case we hate them.

Re:I'm so confused how to feel (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a month and a half ago | (#47269881)

Well, the AC has posed the question in an amazingly ham-handed way, but it is a point worth making.

Bletchley Park was the direct ancestor of the NSA and GCHQ.

It was the start of industrial scale sigint, and the largest part of the project was being run in the US by the end of the war. (Bletchley handed over the Enigma decoding to the US in order to concentrate on the trickier Lorenz cipher, for which they built Colossus).

Bletch (n): (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264185)

As a child in Cheshire England before the second world war, "BLETCH" was the black grease one got on ones hands after replacing the chain on a bicycle.

Mum, I've got Bletch all over my hands, can I have a rag to wipe it off?

Thanks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264233)

Thanks for the self-referencing links. Now fuck off with this retarded beta shit!

When nobody thought of privacy (2)

mi (197448) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264385)

To intercept the German (and Japanese) communications, our spies listened to everything they could — and recorded whatever they deemed useful.

Today's snowdens would've been outraged...

Re:When nobody thought of privacy (3, Insightful)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264517)

Right, because there's absolutely no difference between spying on your enemies in a declared war and spying on your own citizens in peacetime.

Re:When nobody thought of privacy (2)

Dagger2 (1177377) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264575)

Plus no difference at all between listening to everything you could in the 40s (comparatively not much) and recording what's useful, vs recording everything.

Re:When nobody thought of privacy (1)

mi (197448) | about a month and a half ago | (#47265703)

listening to everything you could in the 40s (comparatively not much) and recording what's useful, vs recording everything

The only limits on recording — back then and now — is due to the capacity. Had they been able to record everything back then, they would have.

No, I'm not saying, today's recordings are justified. Just putting things into perspective...

Re:When nobody thought of privacy (1)

mi (197448) | about a month and a half ago | (#47265685)

They spied on everybody's radio-transmissions back then. Everybody's — and caught enemy's spies thanks to that.

The "declared war vs. peacetime" distinction you are trying to make is without difference. We are at war with Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations — that Congress has not declared it is of no consequence.

Restored or Updated/Changed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47264489)

Surley restoring means putting it back to how it was? But haven't they changed it? The old hut looks brown on the outside and now it's green. The railings look different on another picture too (maybe for health/safety issues?).

Whose press release was this copied from? (4, Interesting)

Minwee (522556) | about a month and a half ago | (#47264895)

Bletchley Park looked to its most valuable resource — the veterans who worked there

...and fired them for daring to show historic computers to visitors [theregister.co.uk] . And then kicking out the amateur radio society [southgatearc.org] to replace them with a gift shop, and finally putting up a chain link fence to make sure nobody accidentally visits the real museum in building H [telegraph.co.uk] .

The only reason the current Bletchley park management haven't levelled the place to put up a Starbucks is that the donors might notice and cut off their multi-million pound gravy train.

Screw Dice! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47265931)

I swear Dice are owned by the corporate droids at Apple and the Rockstar consortium who are attempting to kill off the Gnu/Linux Rebels alongside the Win32 *I refuse to use Metro' rebels and Android Raiders! When Cmdr Taco & Linus Torvalds along with RMS dies I say this ' This house of Github & Bletchly will become a shrine for Geeks, WinNuts and Droids as they gather around in sorrow of their fallen leaders and proclaim Have you Heard RMS is dead, The people's Hacker is Dead!'...

Screw Dice! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47269121)

wow,

dude,

think of your blood pressure!

The Bletchley Park experience (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47269905)

I visited BP a few years ago for the first time. I was under a bit of time pressure as I had to take a plane from Heathrow, so only had about an hour to do it all. I wanted to see the Colossus and made my way straight from the entrance office to the back where this is housed. I went through a door and interrupted a guy who was talking to a video camera to make a video presentation. He was REALLY upset at being distracted and let of a fair bit of steam, before he banished me alone to the room where the collossus machines are installed. A couple of minutes later another guy appeared to officially open up, and he too was a bit surprised to find me already there only ten minues after BP had opened for the day. After a short explanation he went and talked to the first guy who came back with him, and a profuse apology and a personal tour of the machines and the closed sections of the nascent NMOC followed. The guy at the video camera turned out to be Dr. Tony Sale, who played a huge part in the campaign to stop BP being turned into a housing estate in the late 80s. It was a fascinating tour, and he got something out of it too: When we came to the mobile device exhibit I commented that he was missing the first touch screen mobile phone / PDA. He said "we would love to have one, but can't find one." Ten days lated he received a package with a mint IBM Simon, which I had kept in the cellar for almost ten years. BTW I missed my plane.

Every one can have an off day, but Dr. Sale had the grace to immediately admit it and turned my frist negative experience into a posistive one that I will never forget. He's probably spinning in his grave right now......

Incidentally, there is also a great museum of computing in Switzerland http://www.enter-online.ch/

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