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Wednesday, 16 November 2011 12:25

Google to preserve slice of computing history

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Hopes to restore Bletchley Park to former glory


Google has secured funding for a rather interesting charitable operation in the hopes of preserving one of the most important sites in the history of computing.

Bletchley Park, a rundown Victorian manor house in Buckinghamshire has seen better days. In World War II, the site was the home of Britain’s decryption effort, spearheaded by legendary mathematician Alan Turing. Eventually, boffins working out of Bletchley Park developed the first programmable computer which allowed them to crack the Enigma code, used by the Nazis.

Historians now believe their feat shortened the war by as much as two years, saving millions of lives and helping allies thwart Axis war plans. From the quagmire at Kursk to the desperate fight to protect supply lines in the North Atlantic, intel from Bletchley Park played a vital role in giving allied forces an upper hand.

The restoration effort is the brainchild of Google exec Simon Meacham, a Brit working in California and, apparently, a history buff. Meacham approached Google’s charity arm about securing $100,000 to get the program rolling and buy scientific papers produced by Turning and his team in the late thirties. That was just a start and Meacham launched a much more ambitious drive to raise £2 million for the renovation of Bletchley’s Block C.

Meacham hopes to attract support from the rest of the tech industry, which clearly owes a huge debt to Bletchley’s scientists: "Wouldn't it be great if there was a hub for computing activity in the UK that was built around where the entire industry started?"

Luckily, his efforts did not go unnoticed. The British Heritage Lottery Fund has already pledged a £4.6 million grant and even the Queen popped round to visit the site and unveil a memorial to the scientists.

More here.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 16 November 2011 12:28

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