back to article 'Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park,' says social network – but don't hold that against it

From the Department of Definitely Not Evil comes news that Facebook is donating £1m to Britain's Bletchley Park computing landmark. The troubled site in England's Milton Keynes, home of the code breakers who worked to decrypt German messages during the Second World War, has fallen on hard times with revenues almost entirely …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

    > 'Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park,'

    I'm sure it wouldn't. Not because of any code-breaking work that Turing might have had a hand in but because of the traffic analysis work done by others.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

      The traffic analysis was done by Gordon Welchman who also worked at Bletchley Park.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

      Arguably the US domination of IT (well, up to a point) would have been less likely without Bletchley park causing HMG to silence British computing technology as a commercial possibility.

      Not something that was a problem for our American partners who were gifted the same technology by us...

      A lot of whatifs but maybe it might have been FaceBook PLC otherwise, running on IBM hardware - thats Imperial Business Machines btw ;-)

      1. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

        Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

        Absolutely true.

        We would likely be under some Nazi dictatorship that kept files and records on all it's citizens. Tracked everything they did, everyone they contacted, everything they bought, even tried to analyse what their thoughts were. And held all those records forever.

        We could never live our lives under a regime like that could we?

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

        Or maybe some hardware from Leo Computers, International Computers and Tabulators, British Tabulating Machine Company, Marconi, Ferranti, or Acorn?

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

          Not mention other countries going along the same ineluctable path of computing invention, like Germany's redoubtable Konrad Zuse.

          .

          Came across this British computing firm ( and makers ] the other day, from a very early period.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elliott_Brothers_(computer_company)

          Of course they changed their name [ from 1780 ! ] in order to drop out of history, and sold on a few times...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

            "Konrad Zuse"

            An extremely clever man, whose contribution to the field of computing is largely forgotten/overlooked by the West in favour of Turing et al (for obvious reasons). His autobiography is worth a read, if you ever see a copy.

          2. Shindles

            Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

            Do pop into The National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park estate to see working Elliott computers.

            By the way The National Museum of Computing is NOT a beneficiary of Facebook's donation, they gave it to Bletchley Park which doesn't even have a working Colossus!

        2. juice Silver badge

          Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

          > Or maybe some hardware from Leo Computers, International Computers and Tabulators, British Tabulating Machine Company, Marconi, Ferranti, or Acorn?

          If memory serves, at least some of the vacuum tubes for some of the first post-WW2 British computers came directly from Bletchley Park; Colossus etc had been dismantled and the quartermaster at the local deppo was scratching his head about what to do with all this newfangled electronic equipment which didn't really seem to serve any purpose.

          So on the one hand, at least one project got a boost from having "free" components, but at the same time, they also had to spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel, while the USA was free to take and apply the lessons which had been learnt during the war.

          I'd also note that (for better or worse), Wikipedia states that Lyons built LEO after two of it's senior managers had flown over to the USA to look for some new business processes...

          (I do actually own the "A Computer Called Leo" book, though it's been a long while since I read it!)

          https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1009975.A_Computer_Called_Leo

          1. Shindles

            Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

            LEO was based on EDSAC which was based at Cambridge (UK).

      3. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

        Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

        The same thing happened with jet airplanes.

        The Brits were actually ahead or on par with the Americans on many fronts after the war. But the Americans were much better at marketing and sales. It boils down to a fundamental difference in character. Europeans always look to the government for leadership, whereas Americans just say: "F*ck the government, we'll do it ourselves."

        Because the social safety net is much smaller in the U.S. Americans have a real drive to make money anyway they can and see business opportunities everywhere. Not so in Europe, where governments and many left-wing political parties do their best to throw up obstacles to businesses.

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

          Pretty sure the American Jet industry sometimes relies on US Government subsidies.

          1. khjohansen
            Black Helicopters

            Re: Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

            *kaff* "Lockheed Martin Bribery Scandal" *kaff*

            See also "Military Industrial Complex" Ref. "Eisenhower Farewell Address"

          2. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

            Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

            And so did the British aviation industry. Remember the three V-bombers from three different manufacturers because the British government wanted to keep all thee companies in business? In the end this became untenable.

            There's nothing illegal or immoral about U.S. subsidies to American airplane manufactures. The U.S. DoD wants a jet airplane and pays American companies handsomely to get one. That some companies derive a commercial jet airliner from it is merely a side-effect, not a deliberate act of industrial policy.

            BTW: some of the technology developed for the V-bombers eventually ended up in Concorde.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

            Pretty sure the American Jet industry sometimes relies on US Government subsidies.

            Errr Um... Boeing being subsidised by Uncle Sam is well documented. GE (Jets) got many a [cough, cough] bung to keep things going in lean times (eg after the end of the Vietnam War and the Korean Was before it)

        2. LDS Silver badge

          "The same thing happened with jet airplanes."

          Yes, now, if UK didn't send the blueprints and some samples to Stalin....

        3. Howard Sway Silver badge

          Re: Americans just say: "F*ck the government, we'll do it ourselves."

          Yeh, they spend inordinate amounts of time saying that online : using technology built upon ARPANET that was built by {drum roll please......} the US government.

          Better not tell him about what happened at CERN either..........

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Americans just say: "F*ck the government, we'll do it ourselves."

            "using technology built upon ARPANET that was built by {drum roll please......} the US government."

            No, it was not built by the US government. It was built by grad students and professors at several US Universities. Yes, they had (D)ARPA money, but there was no (D)ARPA oversight.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Americans just say: "F*ck the government, we'll do it ourselves."

              and packet switching was another idea pinched from Blighty rather than invented by the good old US of A.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Americans just say: "F*ck the government, we'll do it ourselves."

                I think you'll discover that Welshman Donald Davies (the inventor of the term "packet switching") based his work on that of Yank Paul Baran. They are usually listed as "independant inventors", but I think the evidence shows that Davies was fully aware of the prior work of Baran.

      4. Shindles

        Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

        Actually Britain was far ahead of the US in developing commercial computers. Just look at the history of LEO. Britain also pioneered practical computers such as EDSAC which is the forerunner for all today's computers.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

          LEO was a cool machine for its time, but IBM's tabulating machines (which were, in fact, computers) existed long before even Colossus or Turing's Bombe.

          I'll be nice and not mention the Polish Bomba, much less Hollerith's tabulating machines that were used in the 1890 US Census.

          That's not to take anything away from the British contributions to computing, far from it, I'm just trying to open a few rather blinkered eyes to the wider world ...

          "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." —Isaac Newton, 1675

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley Park

      Facebook simply would not exist today if not for Bletchley ParkMa & Pa Zuckerberg hooking up 37 years ago

  2. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    I'm already a patreon supporter for the Cambridge computer museum, but I've donated money to TNMOC.

  3. Winkypop Silver badge

    TNMOC is awesome

    They are nerd-tastic ladies and gents.

  4. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Coat

    Poor buggers

    I bet they feel a little bit dirty this morning.....

    rubber mac ---->

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Poor buggers

      Pecunia non olet as they say.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Wolfclaw

    Not going to be sarcastic here, FB finally doing something right for once and £1m is nothing to them !

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Yeah, I was thinking that too. When you look at the profits of some of the bigger multinationals, they could hand out grants like that on a regular basis and barely notices the "losses". Especially in the US or other places which allow "charitable" donations to be written off against taxes. And I'm not just looking at the IT giants like Apple, Google, Facebook et al, but other huge conglomerates ion other industries too.

  7. GreyHairedGeezer
    Unhappy

    Generous Landlord

    Yes, I'm sure BP will be magnanimous with their money from Facebook. The least they could do is give TNMOC a generous rent holiday. I shan't be holding my breath.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Generous Landlord

      From the sounds of it, Bletchly are getting about £1.5m out of a projected shortfall of £2m, so it's not as if they are being given more than they need. But yes, a little sharesies or a rent holiday wouldn't go amiss if their rules allow them to "give away" money they also desperately need.

    2. Shindles

      Re: Generous Landlord

      I bet you £50 they won't. They have never got over the fact that TNMOC have a working Colossus. They even chucked out the working Turing-Welchman Bombe. They frittered away their lottery grant on "disnification" projects and large salaries. BP Trust pay their landlords a peppercorn rent and charge TNMOC around £60k pa rent. I'm sure charities are not supposed to profit form another charity!

  8. Roger Greenwood

    NRC is still closed

    telling another part of the story and it's relevance today, also on the same site:-

    http://www.nationalradiocentre.com

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021