I’ve had the opportunity in the last few days to visit Bletchley Park to represent my company at the Atos Cyber Security Forum. (Main take away, have a solid and rehearsed incident response plan.)
If you don’t know (and you should!) Bletchley Park was the central site for British codebreakers during World War II, most famously Alan Turing.
It is the place that the German Enigma and Lorenz ciphers were cracked, saving countless lives, helping secure victory and ending WW2 by years…and it was all done in secret and remained secret for many years after. Many that serverd there during the war taking their secrets to the grave.
I got to see the methods used to crack the ciphers, I got to see some of the machinery developed to crack the ciphers and I got to stand in the very rooms that this work was done, including Alan Turings personal office.
We also got a tour from Bletchley’s resident historian and researcher, which was very insightful.
On top of this I had a fantastic experience at The National Museum of Computing, where I was lucky enough to get personal tour of how signals where intercepted as well a personal tour of the famous Colossus computer. The National Museum of Computing is actually separate from Bletchley Park, it is run by a team of dedicated vollenteers, if you are ever lucky enough to visit Bletchley Park make sure you pay them a visit and if you can make a donation to allow them to continue to have Colossus on display.
Bletchley Park feels special, being in the very place that such historic and important work was done is both humbling and inspiring. If you ever have the chance to make the pilgrimage (and it truly feels like a pilgrimage), then make sure you take it. I am already planning my return visit next year.
Yesterday I went to see the new film about Alan Turing, The Imitation Game. Turing was a mathematician and computer science pioneer. During World War II he was instrumental in breaking the German Enigma machines cypher, allowing the allies to decode intercepted German communications. This was invaluable to the allied war effort, and is credited with ending the war years early and saving millions of lives.
Turing was a homosexual, which at the time was illegal in the UK, he was involved in an incident that subsequently lead to his conviction for gross indecency. Upon conviction he was given the option of going to prison or being chemically castrated with hormone therapy. He chose castration. Turing died in 1954, his death was more than likely suicide by cyanide poisoning, this was the finding of the official inquest. Although others debate this, including his own mother who thought his death was accidental.
Due to the secretive nature of his work, Turing’s achievements were never acknowledged, and were buried deep in the archives. The full extent of the part he played in Hitler’s downfall was not known until documents pertaining to it were declassified under the Official Secrets Act 50 year rule.
Although it appears as if the film has many historical inaccuracies in it, I personally thought it was excellent. What the film does do is assist in correcting a 65 year wrong, by bringing to the public’s attention the role Turing played in the war and his treatment after it.
I’ve included a few links with more information about Turing, including his 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers, With an Application to the Entsheidungsproblem” and his 1950 paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”. Chapter one of the former is titled; The Imitation Game.
The Turing Digital Archives
On Computable Numbers, With an Application to the Entsheidungsproblem
Computing Machinery and Intelligence