Google donates £550,000 towards Bletchley Park restoration fundBy Lee Kaelin
The charitable arm of the Internet search giant Google has donated £550,000 ($853,896) towards the £15 million rebuild project for Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, England. The historic site was home to secret British codebreaking activities during WWII.
There is no doubt that Bletchley Park and those that worked there were instrumental in the allies gaining an advantage, and eventually leading to victory in the war. It was so instrumental to the war effort that Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister of the UK was convinced it shortened the military campaign by at least two years.
During the war, the German military forces protected their sensitive communications with encryption machines known as Enigmas. Essentially the Enigma scrambled the message text into a highly complex jumble of incomprehensible letters. The key code used to encrypt the text was changed daily in a bid to prevent anyone decrypting the random characters and therefore decoding the message being sent.
Unknown to the Germans however, the Enigma had been cracked and every day those at Bletchley Park rushed to decipher the daily key change in order to read communications. The need for faster decoding also led to the electromechanical Bombe machine being built in 1940. Each acted as if it was several Enigmas wired together and provided staff with a much faster way of narrowing down the key code used each day. At its peak, 220 of the Bombe machines were in use.
The site is also home to one of the world's first electronic computers. The aptly named Colossus was developed to provide the allies with a way of automating the Lorenz code that was used by the German's to protect communications between Hitler and his high command. The introduction of the Colossus reduced the time it took to crack the code from several weeks by hand to just hours with the computer.
Simon Greenish, CEO of the Bletchley Park Trust said, "It would be wonderful if other donors follow Google's example to help preserve our computing heritage [...] We could then proceed as soon as possible with restoration of the profoundly historically significant codebreaking huts."
The donation by Google is the biggest single donation towards the Trust's transformation project. The money will be used to renovate the huts and towards the building of a new reception center for visitors on the grounds of the manor house. The trust also won a £4.6 million grant from the Heritage Lottery fund but requires another £1.7 million to match it before the grant can be awarded. Those that would like to make a donation can do so from its website.