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Q&A #13134


Code breaking - History

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From: Pat Ballew (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Feb 23, 2004 at 14:57:08
Subject: Re: Code breaking - History

Dave,
 I'm way away from being an expert in codes, the Enigma machine, or even
matrices which I do know a little about,... but never fear that my wide area
of ignorance would keep me from having an opinion...

I don't think the Enigma (actually there were several of them, with
different numbers of wheels, I believe) could be simulated by a matrix.  For
one thing the wheels on the enigma rotated as they were used so if they sent
A to F this time, it would send it to a completely different number next
time...   And then there were wire plugs that allowed a pre-switch of certain
letters also...

Probably I can be more help if I shut up and put you on to some folks who
actually do know a little about the machines, and how they worked... so here
goes

There is a site at
http://www.ugrad.cs.jhu.edu/~russell/classes/enigma/how.html that describes
the machine and also has a simulation of it... It also has some history of
the war effort at Bletchy Park near Oxford...

Also there is a nice site at http://www.codesandciphers.co.uk/enigma/ with
some history of substitution ciphers etc...

For kids, I would start with easy Ceaser Ciphers, maybe give them some
history of the really complex ones using one of the simulations, then maybe
get a few to gear up to read In Code, by Sarah Flannery and her dad... it is
a beautiful story, and the fact that it is about Codes and Math just made it
more fun for me.....

Good luck

 -Pat Ballew, for the T2T service

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