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How the University of Kent's new Turing College got its name

By Trevor Sturgess

When millions of business people across Kent and the world switch on their computers today, few will give a thought to Alan Turing.

Yet without this tortured genius, Steve Jobs might never have made Apple a household name, Bill Gates would not be a multi-billionaire, and Microsoft would be an odd word.

The thoughtful yet riveting new film The Imitation Game reveals the extent of the debt we owe Turing, the father of computer science.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing in the Imitation Game Picture: PA Photo/Handout/StudioCanal
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing in the Imitation Game Picture: PA Photo/Handout/StudioCanal

It was an astute decision by the University of Kent to name its new college after the mathematician who only now is being fully recognised for his huge contribution to computing.

Yet like many eccentric brains, he was hounded throughout his life – and paid the ultimate price – for being different.

The story of Turing (well portrayed by newly-engaged Benedict Cumberbatch) and his wartime code-breaking achievements after years of failed attempts at Bletchley Park is the story of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The brightest business minds ooze good ideas that don’t always work first, second or even third time.

Sceptics sneer, so-called experts on Dragons Den may well put them down with the declaration: “We’re out.”

But if they stick to their guns, convinced they are on the right track and determined to prove the doubters wrong, they often have the last laugh.

As Turing’s fellow code breaker Joan Clarke (played by Keira Knightley) tells Turing: “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of, who do the things that no one can imagine.”

The film should help to attract more women into computer science.

As was said at a university preview, there must be greater recognition of women’s contribution to computing “behind the dazzling story of Alan Turing”.

The industry needs more female role models, with a welcoming, female-friendly environment to attract future Joan Clarkes.

Turing College is set to woo more students to Canterbury, adding to the estimated £700m economic impact on the city and surrounding area. Up to 10,000 jobs are linked to the university.

Education’s contribution to business and economy, including expertise offered to employers, is often overlooked.

As for Bletchley Park, I have to confess a personal interest. My mother worked there during the war. She was no mathematical genius, more a humble filing clerk. But she mixed with the boffins, especially at the weekly social events.

Like everyone else, she was sworn to secrecy and never told me much about what she once admitted as “the best time of her life”.

I often wonder why – but my father was away in India at the time.

Turning back on manufacturing jobs doesn’t make any sense

I don’t like to hear a Maidstone business leader say they are ashamed of the county town.
Yet this is what I’m hearing from its frustrated business community, disappointed at the council’s decision to throw out the chance of 500 manufacturing jobs at the proposed Waterside Park, off Junction 8 of the M20.

There is despair with the regime that would turn down such a generous gift for the local economy and young people needing work.

Although the council has defended its record on job creation, citing retailer Next and Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery (KIMS), those jobs are all in the service sector.

Site of proposed Waterside Park off the A20 Ashford Road, Hollingbourne
Site of proposed Waterside Park off the A20 Ashford Road, Hollingbourne

Only manufacturing adds economic value.

If the council does not want manufacturing at M20 Junction 8, even though motorway links usually make sense for commercial development, it should have come up with alternative sites.

It’s a disturbing sign that Maidstone has turned its back on a once proud manufacturing tradition.

The decision – made apparently for green reasons – imposes continued lorry movements and emissions on Marden. The companies which hoped to move to the site, Scarab and ADL, have been forced to stay in the village.

No wonder these respected employers are so disappointed.

Their European parent companies are losing patience and may well say: “We’ve had enough, we’re off.”
Ashford, an authority seen to recognise the vital role of businesses in job creation and economic wellbeing, is relishing its neighbour’s own goals.

Cathedral’s 800-year-old text now in the digital age

Textus Roffensis may sound rather dull. But this ancient tome written by a candlelit scribe in 1100 could transform the financial fortunes of Rochester Cathedral.

The oldest book in Old English pre-dates the Magna Carta in 1215 and in the latter’s 800th anniversary year, could attract more visitors to our second oldest but also second poorest diocese.

Now the Textus can be seen online too, so more people can appreciate its glory and significance.

Textus Roffensis is the oldest book written in Old English
Textus Roffensis is the oldest book written in Old English

When it becomes the centrepiece of the cathedral’s new permanent exhibition next summer – paid for by Heritage Lottery Fund – it will garner publicity and boost visitor numbers, encouraging more spending with local businesses.

To see Textus Roffensis, visit http://ttpadd.bl.uk/ttp_software/silverlight/default.html

Awards still play vital role

Talking of anniversaries, the Medway Business Awards, the county’s oldest business competition, is 30 years old this year.

Awards may be dismissed as irrelevant. But the Medway accolades have played a part in the revival of the Towns since the devastating closure of Chatham Naval Dockyard in 1984.

They recognise achievement and that’s always worthwhile.

We salute all the firms that have taken part, as well as founder and former KM Group journalist David Jones, the local authority and business sponsors over those 30 years.

They – and Medway – have all triumphed against the odds, just as Alan Turing did in the Second World War.

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