You Can Thank Hitler (and the Cold War) for the Gadget You’re Using to Read This Post   Leave a comment

Because until people started passing really important messages around in code, we didn’t need code-breakers.  And until the Nazis came upon the ingenious (but ultimately flawed) Enigma machine, we didn’t need computational devices like this, which is more or less the grandfather of the modern computer, reborn through the work of some pretty dedicated volunteer uber-nerds:

This is the Turing Bombe, the first real codebreaking computational machine.

The original Bombes, invented by brilliant mathematician Alan Turing, were made using reinforced brown Tufnol plastic moulded from sheets a tenth of an inch thick, a cast-iron framework and 12 miles of intricate wire circuits.

All were destroyed for security reasons on Churchill’s orders after the war. This is a replica, built by 60 volunteers, which was fired up last Tuesday.

At 61⁄2ft tall and running on no more power than a kettle, the Bombe could unravel 158 trillion possible combinations to unlock a seemingly random series of letters sent by the Nazis to the front lines, which were, in fact, highly complex codes, changing daily. Typewriter-like Enigma machines scrambled the letters using three or four rotor wheels.

There’s tons of interesting books on cryptography, for those passerby that are interested drop me a line and I’ll throw you a list.

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Posted March 30, 2009 by padraic2112 in security

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