Last night at an event I heard a speech by Simon Greenish, the Director of Bletchley Park, and also had the good fortune to speak with him afterwards. Bletchley Park is a very special museum in the UK; it is the world's only codebreaking museum. During World War II, Bletchley (a Victorian mansion and estate) was chosen by the government to be the centre for code breaking, and it is where the Enigma code was broken, allowing the allies to know the movements of German troops and ships. Many of the greatest mathematicians of the times worked there, including Alan Turing. Turing gave his name to the "Turing Test", i.e. the test of machine intelligence, and whether a machine can appear to have human intelligence. There is also the "Turing Machine" which is the simplest possible computer using only a moving tape and the ability to read and write symbols on that tape. Bletchley is served by two railway lines (North-South and East-West), so the railway could bring scholars from Oxford and Cambridge, and also Bletchley was the confluence of the telecom networks (then the General Post Office, GPO, long before BT came into existence). Bletchley Park (codenamed "Station X") was the Manhattan Project of the codebreaking world.
Bletchley is a fascinating museum, and maintains a lot of the original huts and equipment used by the codebreakers. It's contribution is still important today for us in the telco industry for at least two reasons: computing and encryption. Bletchley was the birthplace of the modern computer. As Simon Greenish said, the Colossus was the first real electronic computer in the sense that it was the first valve computer to ever do anything really useful, in terms of processing data to solve a real-life problem. The Colossus was the computer they built to model the Enigma machine, and to crack the codes within hours of the Enigma machine settings being changed. It is reckoned that the war was shortened by at least two years, based on the decrypted messages (code name ultra) that came out of the Colossus. They have a working replica of the Colossus today that you can see working. It was lovingly reconstructed by enthusiastic volunteers, some of whom built the original machine. Encryption technology is still important to us today. In IP networks, we depend on technologies like TLS, CHAP and IPSec to secure data connections, and secure VoIP connections over IP networks. A lot of the theory used today in encryption was formulated in those times.
Anyway, if you get a chance to visit Bletchley Park, do. It's an interesting place, and the technology from that era underpins the whole of our modern computer and telecomms industries.