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Our day trip to Bletchley Park from Birmingham was one of our favorite days of our vacation in England. Rick and I both have degrees in computer science. When we were first learning about the history of computers, the secrets of the code-breaking at Bletchley Park were recently revealed. Our professors got such a kick out of a teaching us this “new” history, how geeks saved the world during World War II. As we entered Bletchley Park, we felt like we walked on sacred ground.
The experience of touring Bletchley included these fun interactive guides with more information, videos, and recordings.
There are lots of code-breaking stories to tell at Bletchley Park, but the most famous is Enigma — the encryption machine that produced a code that the world thought was unbreakable. But, in fact, Alan Turing and others at Bletchley Park broke it — a major turning point in the war. That’s the story that is told in the recently released film, The Imitation Game.
It took a machine to break the code produced by a machine. All of the code-breaking machines were demolished after the war, but volunteers rebuilt a working machine so that visitors can watch all the disks move. This machine is considered an immediate pre-cursor to the modern computer.
I reviewed a couple of books related to Bletchley Park last week, using the release of The Imitation Game as an excuse.
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson is a novel for people who think code-breaking is cool. I happened to read the part that was set in Bletchley Park on the day that we were there.
The Lost World of Bletchley Park was the second Bletchley book by Sinclair McKay that I read in 2014. Neither quite gave me what my inner computer programmer wanted, but both are great for a fun, low-tech approach to what went on at Bletchley Park during World War II.
We enjoyed seeing The Imitation Game on Christmas Day — especially the places and machines we recognized from our visit to Bletchley Park (they filmed on site). Rick objected to some of the simplification and poetic license, but I was impressed that they managed a dramatic linear plot from such a complicated story. If you like history, crossword puzzles, or Benedict Cumberbatch, I recommend this one!
Have you seen The Imitation Game? Do you think codes and code-breaking are cool?