Restoring Bletchley Park, birthplace of modern computing

Monday, August 8, 2011 | 11:01 AM

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Late last year Google backed the bid to buy the papers of the British computer scientist and wartime codebreaker Alan Turing and return them to their rightful home at Bletchley Park. We were thrilled when this was finally achieved in February.

Now we’ve joined forces with the Bletchley Park Trust to help raise funds to rebuild Block C, the original wartime building that once housed the vast punched card index—in essence, the “search engine” at the heart of Bletchley Park’s decryption activity.



Bletchley Park played a pivotal role in computing history. For decades the extraordinary achievements of its veterans were hidden by order of the UK’s Official Secrets Act. It was not until the 1980s that the full secret of Colossus — the world’s first electronic programmable computer—was revealed. Housed at Bletchley Park, Colossus and other custom-built machines were crucial aids in the code-breaking, reputed to have shortened World War II by two years.




Today, Block C is derelict. We hope to help restore it to serve as a visitor and learning centre for both Bletchley Park and the UK’s National Museum of Computing. The fund-raising campaign kicked off this week with a Google-supported garden party in the Bletchley Park grounds, at which over £10,000 was raised. We still have a long way to go, though, so if you’d like to contribute, please donate at the Bletchley Park website.

If you’re in London, Bletchley Park is less than an hour away by train, and well worth an afternoon’s visit. You can see a working replica of Colossus, along with many other exhibits highlighting wartime work at Bletchley Park and the UK’s rich computing heritage.

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