Q&A #13134

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Code breaking - History

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From: Mason Kelsey

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2004080112:59:11
Subject: How Enigma Worked

Sorry to disappoint you but I doubt that matrix theory was used in the design of the Enigma machine in Germany back in the early 1920s. It was a fairly simple electronic design, in which three or four wheels were set to control the returned value for any key you strike. The machine looks like a typewriter keyboard (QWERTY) except it has a series of letter that are lit when coding or decoding takes place. The difficulty of determing what the wheel settings were was eased by another machine, the BOMBA, in Poland. The Polish had successfully broken the Enigma code for all messages until a few weeks before the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, when the Germans started changing their key wheel settings daily (at midnight each day). When the invasion started the BOMBA machine was smuggled out through a series of countries to England and it was modified and renamed BOMBE, pronounced BOMB. The famous Alan Turing, the founder of the mathematics of Computability and Unsolvability, and several other mathematicians worked on that project and eventually their work culminated in the development of the very first computer, "Colossus", developed at Cambridge and used at Bletchley Park, about a 60 minute train ride north from London out of Euston Station. This summer, I was in London and decided to take a side trip up to Bletchley Park and see the rebuilt Colossus and BOMBE as well as several Enigma machines. This month they are supposed to be opening Hut 6 where Alan Turing worked, but it was not available when I was there in June. I'm looking for ways of posting the photos I took of the tour. I have some nice photos of the Enigma, BOMBE, and Colossus. They serve a nice pepper and mustard soup in their cafe there. Be sure to bring your umbrella. The idiot guides there think nothing of delivering their spiel standing out in the rain. Even though there is no M16 Intelligence government work going on at Bletchley Park, they are still super sensitive about people wandering off on their own and insist everyone be in a guided tour.

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