How the Bletchley Codebreakers Changed the World

How the Bletchley Codebreakers Changed the World

by Lucy Standbridge, 4th July 2019

It’s no secret that computers are an integral part of our modern daily lives. Historically, the computer would have been the size of a front room where you could literally walk around the whole network of wires and cables. Now there are smartphones in our pockets, on our wrists and tablets the size of books. Yet ironically as their size decreases, their power phenomenally increases.

However, they’re actually not such a new or revolutionary invention at all, and the prevalence of the modern computer can be traced back to Alan Turing and the Codebreakers during the Second World War.

Turing was a British scientist, and he was already renowned for his theoretical construct – known as the Turing Machine today – that stated how a hypothetical machine could determine the result of a set of numbers and variables. Quite mathematical and baffling to get your head around, but it was clear that Turing was an extremely intelligent man. His efforts within Bletchley Park meant that he was a key player in being able to decrypt messages created by the famous ciphering machine, ‘Enigma’. Turing’s contribution helped the world to understand the philosophical musings of artificial intelligence.

Silvertoad’s offices are only half an hour away from Bletchley Park – the best kept military secret of the UK during the Second World War. Whilst German forces were transmitting thousands of coded messages each day – ranging from small insignificant memos to genuine orders signed by Hitler himself – Turing and his fellow codebreakers were secretly translating the Nazi plans back to the British government in an effort to gain an advantage over the Nazi’s.

Nearly 10,000 people worked for the wider Bletchley operation with Turing as their guide, yet many would never have guessed that 75% of the workers were women! In a heavily patriarchal society that 1940s Britain was, women were often forgotten in their efforts in the war. They just fought in other ways.

The invention of the computer which broke the German code in the Second World War set the foundations for all computers today. It’s fair to say computing has changed the whole existence and functionality of humankind.

You can visit Bletchley Park to find out more and see the equipment and developments for yourself.

 

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