Digital innovation can be traced back to WWII

18 July 2013

Masters students from Warwick Business School took a step back in time at Bletchley Park to discover the roots of the digital age in World War Two.

As part of the MSc in Information Systems Management and Innovation course, students study a core module, Digital Business and Workplace Technologies, which looks at the major implications and issues emerging from the use of technology in organisations and Dr John Baptista, Associate Professor of Information Systems, believes that there is no better place to contextualise these themes than at Bletchley Park, where 10,000 people worked in total secrecy during world War Two to crack Hitler’s code.

“Bletchley Park is a great place to gain a deeper understanding of technology based innovation,” said Dr Baptista. "It opens the students’ minds to the origins and history of personal computers and the internet which we now take for granted.

“For example, during last year's trip students learned about the development of code breaking technology used in World War Two which is said to have helped shorten the war by two years.”

Dr Baptista also says the trip to Bletchley Park was a great experience both academically and personally for students on the course:

“Our students come to study from all over the world so the trip to Bletchley Park is a good opportunity for them to bond with each other early on in the programme through an intense day of learning focused on the history of technology,” said Dr Baptista.

“After the visit we spend the following few weeks discussing and exploring these issues in the lectures and seminars through readings and case studies.”

The group also had the opportunity to visit The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, home to the largest collection of functional historic computers in Europe, including a rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer.  The Colossus was first used to speed up analysis of the lengthy messages sent by the commanders of the German army to Hitler.

Rilwan Alli, one of the students who took part in the trip, said: “The visit was an eye opener to how long information technology has been a critical factor in the world, with the Colossus computer and various code-breaking machines that were used during that period. We had the opportunity to experience how various transmissions were decoded by machines made from old telephone circuits and other materials.

“Visiting Bletchley Park was an exciting experience which helped me understand that technology is a continuously developing concept, with evolving storage devices, computers and code-breaking machines,” said Mr Alli.

The MSc Information Systems Management and Innovation programme attracts students from around the world. The course involves exploring technology as an integral part of the management of global organisations and many graduates from this course will go into management or IT consultancy. 

Another trip to Bletchley Park, which is being fully restored and is now a huge tourist attraction, is planned for students beginning the course in September 2013. 

Click here to watch a film of one of our current students talking about her experience on the course.

Dr John Baptista is Associate Professor of Information Systems and will be teaching on the Warwick Executive MBA and the MSc Information Systems Management and Innovation programme in 2013-2014.


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