imitation game movie

Lawrence Wilkinson ljw-cctech at
Tue Feb 10 13:04:26 CST 2015

On 10/02/15 05:21, Jon Elson wrote:
> Forgive me if I missed earlier discussion, but has anybody seen the
> Imitation Game movie, ostensibly about Alan Turing?
I did see it, and I think I know a reasonable amount about the goings-on
at BP. It was the second museum I visited after moving to England in '94
(the first was the Science Museum!)

I thought it did a reasonable job of depicting what was done, but it may
have maintained the impression that he/they broke the code and then
sat back, rather than showing that they developed a system for doing
it every day, for every net, and that it required an on-going effort by
many others to keep the messages flowing.
> There certainly were some real howlers in there, like the bit where 
> Turing
> single handedly decides what info they would share with the British
> government, so as not to alert the Nazis that the Enigma code was
> broken!
He would have known of this problem of course, but this is just a way of
conveying it to the audience without introducing a whole new set of
characters. Denniston (the BP commander) probably got a bad rap, he
was a good administrator and I think he sought Turing out rather than
having him turn up randomly.
> Also, there is only one instance of the Bombe, while it is pretty well
> known they had a set of 350 of them at Ft. Meade running 24 hours
> a day. <snip>
The whole industrial nature of the enterprise is something I didn't realise
initially and doesn't really come across in the movie (Wikipedia says
9000 people peak at BP.) As has been said there were outstations with
the bombes - I expect the few at BP were for developing, experimenting
or verifying. I am surprised that BP itself wasn't more distributed, but
maybe it was and we don't really hear about it. Or maybe splitting key
people across shifts meant that even razing the site would only have
eliminated 1/3 of them.
> Also, they have Turing building the Bombe with his own hands. Various
> descriptions have hundreds of people at Bletchley wiring the rotors and
> doing much of the other work.  The Bombe parts must have been made
> in machine shops across England.
I think he was reasonably "hands-on" but yes, it was a mass-production
exercise once the concept was proven. Turing and co moved on to other
things such as improving the methods.
> At the end of the movie, they sort of imply by a confusing flashback that
> Turing tells the whole story of the code cracking work at Bletchley to
> the police officer.  It is well documented that he never revealed 
> anything
> to anybody about what he did there.
I think that has to go down as a film device. Without that you would have
needed narration or subtitles to explain what was going on. Maybe they
could have had something pop up at the end exonerating him from this.
> Any comments?
> Jon
If you're going to condense 5 years of military, academic and engineering
development into a movie then things are going to suffer. I think they did
a reasonably good job.


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