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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