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The Machines That Sparked the Beginning of the Computer Age

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the in-the-beginning dept.

Encryption 139

jjp9999 writes "A war of spies and electromechanical machines that took place beneath the wires during World War II not only played a crucial role in the Allies' victory, but also helped spark the beginning of the computer age. Among the devices was the Enigma, a cipher capable of producing 150,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible code combinations, and a hulking machine, the Colossus, the first programmable electronic computer, capable of decoding the Enigma."

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First post! (-1)

monkeyhybrid (1677192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36290666)

Posted from my very own Colossus

Re:First post! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292328)

Shut your dirty mouth you fucking faggot, you will never, ever get my dick. Dumb piece of shit queer.

Re:First post! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292340)

Is this slashdot or 4chan? I can't seem to get on 4chan so I guess they have spilled over to slashdot. XD

Re:First post! (1)

CTU (1844100) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292394)

I hope 4chan is not down long. I hate to think what those "people" would do to the rest of the net

Re:First post! (1)

Unoriginal_Nickname (1248894) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292554)

Don't worry. There are lots of places on the internet for 24 year old basement dwellers to talk about childrens' toys and Japanese childrens' television.

Re:First post! (1)

Pseudonym Authority (1591027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292572)

Haters gonna hate. I don't judge you for doing whatever the fuck it is you do, so leave my anime out of this.

Re:First post! (1)

creat3d (1489345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292680)

It's not just anime when it involves child porn and mutilated corpses in between a thousand memes that most sane people can't fucking stand anymore.

Re:First post! (0)

Pseudonym Authority (1591027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292748)

Deal with it.

Re:First post! (1)

CTU (1844100) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292682)

I don't judge anybody, but you have to admit some of them go way to far and can be scary.

Re:First post! (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#36293498)

How can something that's just ink, colour and imagination "go way too far"? It's not like anyone's forcing people to see it. Not that I watch a lot of anime, but still.

Re:First post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36293258)

I love how you weeabos call it "anime" instead of what it really is, a cartoon. It's like you're trying to disguise the fact that you watch shit that's made for kids.

Re:First post! (0)

drwhite (456200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292370)

Shut your dirty mouth you fucking faggot, you will never, ever get my dick. Dumb piece of shit queer.

Completely unnecessary. Perhaps you need to wash your mouth with your own jizz. Grow up..

Re:First post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36294506)

suck a dick, little faggot

67-bit encryption? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292334)

What were they thinking!

Re:67-bit encryption? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292338)

Sir, You are simply missing the 3 evil bits ...

Thanks for the update Big Ben (3, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292362)

Seriously, everyone who is a computer geek/nerd/dork/wannabe knows this.

Re:Thanks for the update Big Ben (0)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292520)

No, they skip it because it doesn't run Linux.

"computer wannabe" (2)

doti (966971) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292708)

who the hell wants to be a computer?

Re:"computer wannabe" (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292786)


Re:"computer wannabe" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36294390)


Re:"computer wannabe" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292858)

Whether they wanted to be or not, plenty of men and women were computers during WWII. The machines of the war helped to change the meaning of the word from "A person who makes calculations or computations" to today's exclusive meaning as an electronic computing device.

Re:"computer wannabe" (2)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36293118)

Wow, we really have come full circle now. link []

Re:Thanks for the update Big Ben (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292750)

Please enlighten us with more of your wonderful submissions, then.

Re:Thanks for the update Big Ben (3, Informative)

rssrss (686344) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292792)

But, this does give us a chance to recommend the excellent biography of Alan Turing which explains his role in the evolution of computer science and his role in breaking the German cyphers:

"Alan Turing: The Enigma" by Andrew Hodges []

unfortunately it's completely wrong (2)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294738)

the real 'pioneers of computers' were the Census machines, and the vast bureaucracies like the Social Security Administration.

and yes, even the machines in the Nazi concentration camps, which IBM Germany worked on.

dare i mention that the Soviet Union was a huge punch card customer through the 1930s?

and that punch card machines are, well, basically, like gigantic electromechanical SQL devices?

oh, and the Japanese fascists were pretty good customers too.


but of course, lets forget about all that. everyone knows the first computers were codebreakers built to help stop hitler. yay us.

Re:Thanks for the update Big Ben (2)

pinkushun (1467193) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294942)

My photographic memory film isn't always loaded, so it's nice to be reminded of this again :)

Nerd = derogatory and not necessarily a geek.
Dork = slang for a penis.
Wannabe = someone pretending they know everything and thus so should everybody else.

American Crypto better than Enigma (5, Informative)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292376)

In these discussions it is common to overlook Sigaba [] , the American encryption machine that was significantly more secure than Enigma.

SIGABA was similar to the Enigma in basic theory, in that it used a series of rotors to encipher every character of the plaintext into a different character of ciphertext. Unlike Enigma's three rotors however, the SIGABA included fifteen, and did not use a reflecting rotor.

Electronic Cipher Machine (ECM) Mark II []

The ECM Mark II based cryptographic system is not known to have ever been broken by an enemy and was secure throughout WW II. The system was retired by the U.S. Navy in 1959 because it was too slow to meet the demands of modern naval communications. Axis powers (primarily Germany) did however periodically break the lower grade systems used by Allied forces. Early in the war (notably during the convoy battle of the Atlantic and the North Africa campaign) the breaking of Allied systems contributed to Axis success.

Cryptanalysis of the SIGABA --- 3.4 Stepping Maze []

While other rotor-based cryptosystems tended to rotate their rotors as an odometer (with the last rotor moving one position per letter, and each other rotor moving one position when the rotor after it completes a full cycle), the SIGABA introduces
an innovative concept. The movement of its cipher rotors depend on the two other rotor banks, collectively known as the stepping maze. The output of the stepping maze is not seen directly, but rather controls the movements of the cipher rotors. Thus, the SIGABA uses a hidden cryptosystem within another cryptosystem.

The Germans that beat their heads against it referred to it as, "The big machine".

Re:American Crypto better than Enigma (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292478)

Wow, I wish I had mod points. That's way more interesting than TFA. Plus, while everyone with a high school education has probably heard about Enigma, I at least had never heard of Sigaba.

Re:American Crypto better than Enigma (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292580)

Thanks for that, I've never heard anything about the American crypto from the 30s or 40s.

Re:American Crypto better than Enigma (3, Insightful)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294174)

The US had networks of rich trustafarian like elites feeding back news pre ww2 and the US gov liked to read all text flowing via its private telco network ie Room 641A like.
SIGABA was not that great, in great poverty, post ww2, England was able to tell the US of its workings in 1947 and hinted they had used some of the SIGABA ideas. The US was shocked as they thought they had "made in the USA" crypto perfection. The UK suggested working together on a better system, to cut costs in replacing its own Typex as SIGABA was in the past.
The US said no, then Korea and the NSA changed everything.
The US finally got crypto in the 1950's and its greatest gift to the world has been ensuring all export quality codes and devices used by friends and other nations where well known to the USA.

Re:American Crypto better than Enigma (3, Interesting)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 3 years ago | (#36293712)

One of the oddest things I saw in the Wikipedia article was "SIGABA is described in U.S. Patent 6,175,625, filed in 1944 but not issued until 2001". I wonder if that is some kind of record.

Allies were the villians in WWII (-1, Troll)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292390)

Seriously, look it up. Britain declared war on Germany on behalf of an "ally" (Poland) that she had no intention of helping. Bomber Harris proceeded to intentionally target "enemy" civilians, hiding the fact from the air crews, thus proving that he knew it was a war crime and against international law. America unleashed an unprecedented series of provocations, leading to Japan declaring war. America followed this up by a war of aggression, putting Americans that looked like Japanese into concentration camps. White Americans invented new weapons of mass destruction and used them against nonwhites. The Onion put it best: "Nagasaki bombed 'for the hell of it': second bomb would have just 'sat around anyway'.

What, unfamiliar with this narrative? Have you attended a university history course in the last twenty years? My guess is: not.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (2)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292424)

Well, you're forgetting insignificant parts where Germans invaded France and the USSR, committing crimes that make every other genocide pale in comparison.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292440)

America followed this up by a war of aggression, putting Americans that looked like Japanese into concentration camps.

Uhm??? At no point in history has the United States of America run a concentration camp. EVER.

If I wasn't completely sure that you are a lying troll, I would correct your mistake and say you probably meant internment camps. However, it's obvious we lousy Americans are *exactly* like the Schutzstaffel... Fucker.

CAPTCHA: faction

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (3, Informative)

nickovs (115935) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292552)

Sadly, while the poster is clearly trolling with his deliberately lopsided history, the US did put well over 100,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps. These camps, while offering better conditions in most respects, bore far too close a resemblance to concentration camps for anyone with a conscience. look it up [] is you need to know more.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#36293520)

He's also right about the US de facto starting the war against Japan. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the US had given Japan an ultimatum which was technically impossible to comply with. Basically, it demanded full and immediate withdrawal of all Japanese forces from Indochina by the end of the year, which was clearly logistically impossible (how long as the US taken to withdraw from Iraq now?). The Japanese interpreted this as war being impossible to avoid, and attacked Perl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, where the US really was building a war machine for attacking Japan. So they weren't wrong about that.

This seems to be a reoccurring tactic by the United States - a similarly impossible ultimatum was given to Saddam Hussein, where it was demanded that he prove that he didn't have weapons of mass destruction, and proving a large scale negative is, of course, quite impossible.

One can only speculate in why the US uses this tactic - it certainly won't fool the people the ultimatum is given to, nor historians. My personal speculation is that it's meant to fool the US population, in order to gain popular support, and may even be fairly successful at that.

Anyhow, it's at this point just an interesting historical footnote. The war happened, and US trickery doesn't in any way detract from the war crimes done by the adversaries, nor exonerate their actions.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36293836)

Wow. Most of the time I love the crazy shit on the Internet, but the ignorance in this thread is appalling, even by Internet standards.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294562)

Whenever this debate kicks off both sides start listing things the other did wrong, but there are two important points that are usually overlooked.

1. All parties did regrettable things. Internment/POW camps, bombing civilian targets with incendiaries and nukes, maltreatment and disregard for human rights and the Geneva Convention, sending soldiers on suicide missions... You can argue that one side was worse than the other, which is certainly true, but the real question is did the situation at the time justify those actions?

2. At the time most people in Germany were not aware of the holocaust, most Japanese were not aware of the abuse going on in China, most Americans were not aware of the atomic bombings or the nature of life in internment camps. Accusing ordinary citizens of being guilty of supporting those actions is unfair. In fact it is the justification used by the 7/7 London bombers, which to my mind made little sense because most people were against the wars they were accused of supporting. 2 million of us even marched against them... But anyway, the situations that lead to these things are complicated and they were usually kept secret until after they had happened.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (3, Interesting)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294656)

Sadly, while the poster is clearly trolling with his deliberately lopsided history, the US did put well over 100,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps. These camps, while offering better conditions in most respects, bore far too close a resemblance to concentration camps for anyone with a conscience. look it up [] is you need to know more.

Have you ever heard of the German American Bund [] ? It was one of several organizations of German Americans in the 1930s-40s. It was a significant pro-Nazi force in the United States. If you watch this video [] , you will think your eyes are tricking you. But yes, that is the United States, and yes, the giant figure you can see in the back of some of the stages is George Washington. Was the Bund potentially dangerous? How could the government not believe it was a possibility? There were a large number of reports of "Fifth Columnists , such as the Sudetendeutsches Freikorps [] in Czechoslovakia, and the Selbstschutz [] in Poland that aided the German invaders. There were similar reports out of Norway, Denmark, and other places.

This is Time magazines description of how things looked in 1940 as the US watched country after country fall to Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy and be brutalized in a terrible fashion.

WAR & PEACE: Science of Treason - Monday, Aug. 26, 1940 []
> The German-American Bund,* with 71 units strategically located in industrial centres or near munitions works, with 25,000 drilled and disciplined members, is only the most widely publicized of Hitler's U. S. supporters. There are in addition 10,000 other Hitler-heiling Germans in the U. S.; 400,000 Germans who support Hitler but keep quiet about it. There are lecturers, writers, organizers, technical experts, economists, historians. A German professor of history at the University of Hawaii has contributed articles on the U. S. Navy to the Nazi magazine Zeitschrift für Geopolitik, to which professors of the University of California and of Miami University in Ohio also contributed.

> There are some 200,000 Italian fascists in the U. S.

> Not counting fellow travelers, there are 100,000 U. S. Communists who are now actively collaborating with Nazis and Italian fascists, and who are more strategically placed than either in U. S. industry and trade unions. **

> With native-born fascists included, the fifth column numbers more than a million. The main task of cleaning it out is a job for the FBI; laymen can take little direct action beyond reporting suspicious behavior to the Government. But every citizen can contribute to a change in the national atmosphere—"not of lethargy, not of fear, not of defeat, but invigorated by the defiant faith which we have known in the past as typically American."

I've heard a report that 60,000 Germans & German Americans were arrested, and apparently at least 10,000 were held in camps. There may have been more. This story doesn't seem to get much attention, and the documents seem to be harder to come by.

As to the Japanese, there were many of them that, like the Germans, also had patriotic organizations tying them to Japan.

From: Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial Ignores Wartime Realities []

Before the war many thousands of Japanese Americans and Japanese citizens living in the U.S. belonged to militant and patriotic organizations such as the Imperial Comradeship Society and the Japanese Military Servicemen's League (approximately 9,500 and 7,200 members respectively). These organizations were known to be involved in the collection of intelligence information and the collection of money to support the Japanese war effort in China.

A 14 October 1941 War Department intelligence report stated that there were 69 local units of these organizations and that,

"these two organizations have pledged to do sabotage (railroads and harbors) in the states mentioned above, [northern California, Washington, Oregon and Utah] in time of emergency." [Note 13]

Many thousands of students attending Japanese schools in the U.S. were taught, as Sen. Daniel Inouye described in his book, Journey to Washington, "You must remember that only a trick of fate has brought you so far from your homeland, but there must be no question of your loyalty. When Japan calls you must know that it is Japanese blood that flows in your veins."

Approximately 20,000 young Japanese-Americans had been sent by their families to Japan for their education, which included heavy doses of militaristic indoctrination and emperor worship. By the time of Pearl Harbor almost 6,000 students who had been taught in Japan had returned to the United States. [Note 10]

Twenty-eight percent of military-age male citizens refused to renounce loyalty to the emperor. Thousands petitioned the U.S. Government to return to Japan to fight for the emperor, and participated openly in military demonstrations in support of the enemy and their emperor. More than 5,000 of both sexes renounced their U.S. citizenship when given the opportunity. (Some had been coerced to renounce, which gives an idea of the influence the disloyals had on the loyal Japanese Americans.) [Note 12]

With the strong Japanese fleet and demonstrated ability to invade remote lands, the possibility of a major Japanese raid or invasion by battle hardened Japanese troops aided by thousands of Fifth Columnists inside America was a very troubling prospect, particularly given the condition of the US military.

Ten Things Every American Student Should Know About Our Army in World War II []

#1. The U.S. Army was a puny weakling when the war began
When the European war began in earnest on September 1, 1939, with the German invasion of Poland, the U.S. Army ranked seventeenth among armies of the world in size and combat power, just behind Romania. It numbered 190,000 soldiers. (It would grow to 8.3 million in 1945, a 44-fold increase.) When mobilization began in 1940, the Army had only 14,000 professional officers. The average age of majors—a middling rank, between captain and lieutenant colonel—was nearly 48; in the National Guard, nearly one-quarter of first lieutenants were over 40 years old, and the senior ranks were dominated by political hacks of certifiable military incompetence. Not a single officer on duty in 1941 had commanded a unit as large as a division in World War I. At the time of Pearl Harbor, in December 1941, only one American division was on a full war footing.

With the possible immediate danger posed to the US west coast by Imperial Japan, the condition of US forces, the demonstrated disloyalty of some Japanese, the uncertain loyalty of other Japanese, and some adders of racism and economic pressures, the Japanese were evacuated from the west coast military zones where they could potentially pose a threat, and held in camps. The Supreme Court upheld the removal order in Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States.

The issue of immigrant loyalty to the United States hasn't gone away, but in fact keeps popping up. As a land of immigrants, there are people in the United States for many different reasons. Some are in the US solely for the economic advantage, and take citizenship solely because it allows them to remain in the country while their true allegiance lays elsewhere. Others are refugees from terrible situations. Others are in the US for no good purpose. Here are two examples of the on-going problems: Chinese espionage, and Somali Jihad.

Chinese espionage []

China has spent more than two decades creating a large and varied intelligence infrastructure in the United States, according to US counterintelligence documents. High-profile prosecutions in recent years related to alleged Chinese espionage may merely hint at the depth and breadth of China's collection efforts.

It isn't a classical KGB-like operation, featuring dead drops and microfiche passed in the night. China's espionage style is unique, according to US law enforcement. It depends on a multitude of relative amateurs: Chinese students and visiting scientists, plus people of Chinese heritage living in the US.

Each individual may produce only a small bit of data. But collectively the network might vacuum up an extensive amount of sensitive military and economic information.

Peter Brookes: Legion of Amateurs -- How China Spies []

China has seven permanent diplomatic missions in the States, staffed with intelligence personnel. But the FBI believes that as many as 3,500 Chinese "front companies" are involved in espionage for the People's Republic of China (PRC) as well.

Jihad Recruiting Effort May Explain Missing Somalis in Minneapolis Area []

Dozens of young Somali men in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area have disappeared in recent months, causing community members and U.S. intelligence officials to fear that they are joining jihadist groups in Somalia.

Officials are especially concerned that some of the men may be destined to return to the U.S. after they have received terrorist training.

The missing young men have been the focus of some attention since late October, when Shirwa Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen, died in a suicide bombing in northern Somalia. Ahmed was a 1999 graduate of Minneapolis's Roosevelt High School.

I'm sure in retrospect, now that everyone knows the outcomes, it is easy to make judgments about what should or shouldn't have happened. Now if you can do that looking forward, instead of backward, and get it right, I will be really impressed and you may find some superb job offers. Anyone have any good ideas about what to do about the Somali Jihad problem? What about the Chinese espionage problem? I'm sure the FBI would love to hear them. Just be aware that in 70 years, your suggestions may be under "review"**.

** This was during the period of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact.
** You realize that by looking into the problems with Chinese espionage and Somali jihadis, some will accuse you of racial profiling despite the fact that it is pretty much Chinese that come from China, and Somalis that come from Somalia.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292616)

If I wasn't completely sure that you are a lying troll, I would correct your mistake and say you probably meant internment camps

Get a grip on a dictionary. An "internment camp" is the same thing as a "concentration camp", neither requires torture, slave labour, or genocide for the term to be applicable. However both require the prisoners to be selected on the basis of ethincity and/or political persuassion.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (5, Insightful)

Trailwalker (648636) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292856)

At no point in history has the United States of America run a concentration camp. EVER.

We called them "Reservations".

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (0)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292884)

Except that reservation don't have walls or fences nor does the US have internal passports (like the Soviet Union did) restricting travel out of the reservations.

Reservations have their own tribal law for everything from traffic to misdemeanors while Federal Law deals with Felonies.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (3, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36293206)

That's the case now, but back when the reservations were set up, they were absolutely analogous to concentration camps. Entire civilizations were rounded up and sent on a death march to tiny parcels of low-value land, resulting in obscene high mortality rates. If it were done today, it would rightfully be called ethnic cleansing.

I'm not at all the sort to hate on America -- modern day Americans are in no way responsible for the actions of people living close to two centuries ago. Heck, while I don't know the statistics, I'd be willing to bet that the majority of Americans aren't even descended from the English settlers who were living here back then. But we do need to acknowledge that what was done was wrong.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (0, Flamebait)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36293486)

There was one "death march", the Trail of Tears, that only affects the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, and Seminole.

The only other forced relocations in the history of the United States were General Order No. 11 (1863), the Japanese, German and Italian internments in World War Two and removal of the Aleutian Islanders in World War Two.

It wasn't just "English settlers" who were living back then, English, German, Dutch, Scottish and Irish.

My European ancestors got here in 1631 and 1895, my American Indian ancestors got here, oh about 10-45,000 years ago.

I'm from an Indian Reservation, studied the American Indian Wars in grad school and nothing I've experienced or learned tells me that anything the Americans did to the American Indians was any worse than what the American Indians had done to each other for thousands of years.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (2)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294278)

We called them "Reservations".

In Australia, the concentration camps were called "missions" - and run by christian missionaries.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (1)

Medevilae (1456015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292500)

Well, logically- oh, nice tin foil hat. All makes sense now. Carry on.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292638)


Japan's seizure of Manchuria and invasion of China wasn't a provocation? The rape of Nanking? 22 million Chinese civilans killed vs 960,000 Japanese civilians dead makes the allies the villains?

How about the Jews and Gypsies killed by Germany, that's surely the fault of the allies.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (1)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292780)

Sure is a good thing those nice Germans didn't target any civilians.

Oh, wait, we're back in the real world here! The sad part is, I'm not even entirely sure you're trolling. The Americans didn't have entirely clean hands in the whole affair. Very few countries have fought a major war without doing some things they've later come to regret, one good reason not to have the damn things. And the internment camps were a travesty, but they pale beside Auschwitz or Birkenau. The majority of Japanese-Americans who were put into internment camps did, at least, come out of them alive, and weren't sent there with the deliberate purpose of mass slaughter.

That doesn't by any means make it right. But it's nothing like the Holocaust.

Re:Allies were the villians in WWII (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36293324)

All I care about WW2 is that the Germans gassed/baked a bunch of Jews, the Russians crushed the Germans, the Japanese proved they were dishonorable cowards and the USA nuked the shit out of Japan for it. Anything else is irrelevant.

The 4004!!! (-1, Troll)

slashpotter (2215746) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292462)

First calculator [] based on a microprocessor, the intel 4004 comes to mind. I am very lucky to own one of these!

Goatse (1)

ElementOfDestruction (2024308) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292472)

Mod down...

Re:The 4004!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292492)

Why do I suspect the above is a goatse link?

Re:The 4004!!! (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 3 years ago | (#36293478)

'cause the same guy's been posting those links for a few days at least.

-99999 (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292504)

Damn! Mod this fucker to hell

NSFW (0)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292650)

Link is self portrait of slashpotter.

Um...isn't this NEWS for nerds? (0)

Covalent (1001277) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292522)

In other news, Superman comics paved the way for other comics, Thomas Edison was a really awesome inventor, and the quantum world is often strange.

Seriously, how did this get on to the main page. There is no NEWS here...

Re:Um...isn't this NEWS for nerds? (1)

ProfMobius (1313701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292604)

This either not a news, or you are not a nerd.

Re:Um...isn't this NEWS for nerds? (5, Informative)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292866)

Thomas Edison was a really awesome inventor

Thomas A. Edison was a really awesome businessman, opportunist, and quite possibly the world's first patent troll. Very few of the inventions he has been credited for were actually invented by him, the person. Sometimes by employees of Edison, and sometimes these were foreign inventions, bought or outright filched, and then patented in the US by Edison.

Re:Um...isn't this NEWS for nerds? (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294528)

He was just the first successful patent troll. Patent trolling had become all the rage around that time and a lot of 'old money' today was born from little patents here, little patents there, etc.

Re:Um...isn't this NEWS for nerds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292880)

You want more paraphrased press releases from Nvidia, Facebook et al?

Every so often it's nice to step back and get some perspective... this was the real deal when it came to tech stories.

Re:Um...isn't this NEWS for nerds? (3, Informative)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292962)

Thomas Edison was a really awesome inventor

No, he wasn't. You've fallen for the hype (mostly created by Thos. Edison himself).

Re:Um...isn't this NEWS for nerds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36294456)

I think the correct term for this here is "whoosh".

The 4004!!! (-1, Troll)

slashpoter (2215774) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292528)

Its first microprocessor, and has a calculator based on it. It has its schematics published! and emulator [] I am very very lucky to own one of original calculators based on this processor.

GOATSE : Do not open link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36293284)

GOATSE : Do not open link

Colossus was *not* used to break Enigma (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292532)

IIRC Colossus was used to break the Lorenz ciphers, not Enigma. BP were using the Bombs with menus for Enigma.

Re:Colossus was *not* used to break Enigma (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292594)

Oops, that should have been "bombe" not "bomb". Good info here:

oooooh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36292598)

also, apparently you can the internet on computers now [Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net]

Why no Colosson? (0)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292618)

Colossus was listed, but why not Colosson [] ?

Book (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292628)

For those who want to do a bit more reading on the subject (of the Bombe machines, Colossus, etc.), there's Colussus: Bletchley Park's Greatest Secret [] by P. Gannon.

Enigma emulator on linux (1)

ProfMobius (1313701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292636)

Speaking of Enigma (or SIGABA from a previous post), does someone knows any good emulator/decoder for Enigma on linux ? I found this [] but it is a bit too visual for me (you have to drag and drop the rotors yourself, etc), it doesn't decode and it is for windows.

I'm more interrested in an open source command line tool, with decoding abilities.

Connections - Faith in Numbers (4, Informative)

peterofoz (1038508) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292660)

Anyone who is serious about computing should watch this Connections episode by James Burke that takes you from the water wheel and jacquard loom to modern day computing. Its simply amazing.

Connections - Episode 4 - "Faith in Numbers" []

Re:Connections - Faith in Numbers (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292974)

The Connections series is indeed timeless! They need to start making documentaries like that again... with real scientists/historians and not actors reading lines... and the assumption that the audience has an IQ of at least room temperature. Also the production values of that series are still impressive by today's standards. It blows my mind how they seem to have constructed entire elaborate sets with lots of extras and costume, just for these 10 second clips between segments. Just James Burke talking in front of a podium would be enough, but the high quality of the show makes it extra watchable.

Would also recommend "The Machine That Changed the World" as worth checking out! The first 3 parts make a fairly comprehensive overview of the history of computing.

Re:Connections - Faith in Numbers (1)

hedronist (233240) | more than 3 years ago | (#36293626)

Agreed. Connections (the original, not Connections II) and a few of others (The Ascent of Man by Jacob Branowski) set the bar for what really educational TV should be like.

Re:Connections - Faith in Numbers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36294136)

Ahh... Back when The Learning Channel was actually about learning...

The most fun part (until you've seen an episode already) was trying to guess where it would go next when the next connection was coming in a series. In a way it was like trying to play along with Jeopardy, but in a historical timeline/storyline form. It was also neat when they'd do the jump-back sections with seemingly unrelated stuff in order to do the A+B=C things that they'd occasionally throw in.

I do kind of miss shows like that. They were fun.

Re:Connections - Faith in Numbers (1)

robmclarty (2211220) | more than 3 years ago | (#36293404)

Best comment I've seen all month. lol

Re:Connections - Faith in Numbers (1)

OrigamiMarie (1501451) | more than 3 years ago | (#36293656)

Thank you for that; I had not thought about the possibility of Connections being on YouTube (silly me). These things are still surprisingly enthralling . . .

Good bye and thanks for all troll food... (-1, Offtopic)

slashpoter (2215774) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292756)

My food collection is getting big...

"Ugh. Goatse. NSFW. Asshole (poster and picture, both)."
"Seriously ... new account to post that ... what a douche!"
"You're a fucking douchbag." - "That is the most accurate comment yet"
"I hope you die in a fire before you are old enough to contaminate the gene pool."
"Death to all assholes - Let's put you first into the guillotine"
"Asshole... Ginormous asshole, in fact."
"Ugh. Goatse. You asshole."
"Better than you, you arse bandit."

"I hate your guts."
"Damn! Mod this fucker to hell"
"Fucking troll, do not click there"
"It would be more interesting if I had a piece of pipe and your face, in close proximity so I could smash your face beyond recognition,"
"You fucker" - "I had the same thought as you. What a fucking asshole. The link is nsfw."
"Bravo teeny bopper. You're a really mature mother fucker (or do you prefer father fucking? Damn you homo erotic shittter)."
"Wait! I think I hear your mommy calling to give your tongue a good soap washing. And maybe she'll execute you too"
"You fucking piece of shit!" , "You sorry piece of shit." , "You cunt.", "Fuck you."
"It's because of Assholes like you that I can no longer trust URL shorteners"
"I did not even bother to look, but this same idiot has been doing this for weeks now. Fuck off asshole."
"What a retard..... enough said...."

"Didn't click it, but the magic 8-ball says goatse."
"Thanks, I'm reading slashdot in class like a good student and just got tubgirl'd."
"not gonna click it to find out, but I'd be surprised if parent's link wasn't goatse... It appears you would be correct sir. Why oh why do I always forget.."
"Watching second monitor, there was something wrong with the other screen. Control + w. Phew..."
"Doh! One has to also recognize data urls. *sigh*"
"That's somewhat clever, but some of us do know what base-64 encoding is."
"Can you not afford normal entertainment?"
"Hey family! Come look! They're opening the Google Talk client! Now, click here...... (sees goatse)"
"I tried to post warnings about the goaste loving jerk yesterday but was modded into oblivion as a karma whore"
"Turn on TinyUrl previews. It saves lives."
"Posting your picture online again?"
"Really? Are you not tired of this yet?"
"High likelyhood of being a Goatse link. Proceed with caution"

"i WAS eating lunch you ass!"
"Oh dear god my eyes. Haven't seen THAT awful image in a while."
"My eyes are burning... argh! Damn you!"
"MY EYES... dude i am at work here "S "
"WARNING: Don't click on the parent's link! Damn goatse! The first I experienced, no less.
"Oh goddammit. I didn't need that right before bed."
"goatse warning! I'm still recovering."

"Can someone make a fucking goatse blocker firefox plugin please? This is pissing me off now."
"I am sick and tired of that crap on /. "

"Why the sudden coordinated campaign for Goatse? Is someone making money off this?"
"You're right, this is the most coordinated troll campaign in a long time. Multiple accounts, multiple pages."
"Urgh...dammit, am I the only one thinking the goatse trolls are getting worse lately than they have been in the past five years?"
"Who found a way to monetize goatse at this late date? If we got half the effort of that campaign on real stuff we'd all have better software by now."
"Boy Goatsex is out in force today... - Every topic is littered with them..."
"You can't actually expect the Slashdot users to actually know enough not to respond to a goatse troll, right ?"
"Can we start banning people who post that hiding it behind a url shortening link like"

"You are one dedicated troll."
"Well played, sir. Well played."
"A link that redirects to a page containing goatse? How clever of you!"
"Congrats. It's been a long time since I saw goatse."
"Thank you for that informational link"
"Interesting use of Data URLs for Goatse linking."
"Link is self portrait of ME"
"Goatse URL - Haven't seen that guy in a while"

"The fuck is a goatse? it's some dude pulling his arse open."
"Could not someone at slashdot write a small script to blacklist url's that have been flagged troll? I'll do it if you pay me a slave wage..."
"Parent should be modded down. Link is NSFW and mentally scarring."
"Just post the damn url, i'm not going to click on a tinyurl link and get goatse'd or something.."
"Someone please mod this guy down... Don't click his link."
"Mod to -1, please. this guy is an 'asshole'.... (yes, you guessed it)"
"Don't click the link! Goatse wannabe."
"Danger, goatse" ...
You though I am quitting trolling? No, no way.
Remember, all your replies I like get into this collection and will be reposted ad infinitum.
See you

Re:Good bye and thanks for all troll food... (-1, Redundant)

ProfMobius (1313701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292790)

Not sure what you are trying to achieve here. And your title should have been "Good bye and thanks for all the trolls", at least it would have made sense...

Re:Good bye and thanks for all troll food... (-1, Troll)

slashpoter (2215774) | more than 3 years ago | (#36292798)

Well, you can find out details on my blog []

1st posessed frankenputer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36293004)

The unfortunate inclusion of decoding algorithms taken from John Dee's manuscripts - possibly with apocryphal additions by Edward Kelly - cause ... "malfunctions" which continue to plague classically named supercomputers up to the present day. We need only to remember what happened to the movie COLOSSUS computer, the HECTOR, The PROTEUS ... not to mention others [] . ;)

Colossus was not used for Enigma (2)

ivaradi (194037) | more than 3 years ago | (#36293360)

While Colossus may have been capable of breaking Enigma (though it is not sure, as it was a highly specialized computer), it was actually used for breaking another, more sophisticated cipher produced by a Lorenz-made machine connected to a telex machine. When encoding, the telex machine emitted a 5-bit code, which was encrypted using the Lorenz machine. For decoding the process was reversed. This type of traffic was called Fish or Tunny in Bletchley Park.

Re:Colossus was not used for Enigma (1)

RegularFry (137639) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294272)

It is slightly embarrassing (especially in light of all the "Don't nerds know this already?" traffic upthread) that yours is the first comment I've seen to mention this.

Re:Colossus was not used for Enigma (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294432)

Would this have been possible? My understanding was that Colossus was essentially a solid state Lorenz with some statistical analysis electronics.

Re:Colossus was not used for Enigma (1)

ivaradi (194037) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294670)

Yes, the wheels of the Lorenz machine were simulated by some logical circuits made of vacuum tubes. But the book I read on the subject claimed, that the circuits were quite generic (some registers and logical operations), so if wired differently, one could make the computer to perform other combinations of operations. Of course breaking Enigma is quite a complicated matter, so it is entirely possible that Colossus was not flexible enough to be wired to do that.

Article omits relevant information (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36293454)

Amazingly the article omits to tell us about Konrad Zuze:

"Konrad Zuse (German pronunciation: [knat tsuz]; 22 June 1910 Berlin – 18 December 1995 Hünfeld near Fulda) was a German engineer and computer pioneer. His greatest achievement was the world's first functional program-controlled Turing-complete computer, the Z3, which became operational in May 1941. He received the Werner-von-Siemens-Ring in 1964 for the Z3.[1] Much of his early work was financed by his family and commerce, but after 1939 he was given resources by the Nazi German Government.[2]
Zuse's S2 computing machine is considered to be the first process-controlled computer. In 1946, he designed the first high-level programming language, Plankalkül.[3] Zuse founded one of the earliest computer businesses on 1 April 1941 (Zuse Ingenieurbüro und Apparatebau).[4] This company built the Z4, which became the world's first commercial computer."

Re:Article omits relevant information (1)

DarkDust (239124) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294054)

I also find it totally amazing that Konrad Zuse's Z3 [] is always and consistently omitted by americans when it comes to determine which one was the first real computer. My guess is most of them simply don't know about the Zuse and the Z3. It's quite sad, because the achievements of this man are astounding.

Re:Article omits relevant information (1)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294892)

It is an amazing device, but I think the reason it's omitted is that it didn't have a conditional branch, so although theoretically Turing-complete, it was in practice impossible to program and use in the same way as a modern computing device; i.e. it was effectively a very clever calculator. Later machines, e.g. ENIAC, were programable in the modern sense, even though initially using plugboards. I had always thought that Colossus wasn't a true programable computer, but having browsed around a few descriptions, it seems that it was, so it is fair to give it credit as the first modern computer.

Colossus was Not for Enigma (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36293552)

Colossus was not developed to decrypt Enigma traffic; it was developed to assist in decryption of a much more complex German cipher called "Tunny" by the Brits.

Often overlooked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36293600)

A german engineer started out in computer-technology way before that and without any military-driven background. Konrad Zuse was a pioneer. (see [] )

Z Series (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36293814)

What about the german Z series computers? They were the first working example ...

Funny how none of these computers were... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36293996)

... invented by AFRICANS, isn't it...

It goes waaaaaay further back than this... (1)

Bones3D_mac (324952) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294060)

There is evidence that some of the first computers ever produced existed as far back as 150 BC, A device found in 1901, called the Antikythera mechanism, is a mechanical computing device believed to have been used to chart astronomical positions. It's overall design rivals the complexity of an early mechanical watch.

Another fun item, the japanese Karakuri ningy, or clockwork doll. They are some of the earliest known examples of robotics, going back to the 17th century. The Karakuri ningy was primarily used by wealthy dignitaries for ceremonial purposes, like serving tea. One of these clockwork doll would be placed upon a table, holding up a small tray. When a weighted object, such as a tea cup, was placed on the tray, the weight of the object would set the mechanics in motion, causing the doll to turn 180 degrees from the server and would then begin walking toward the guest at the other side of the table, to deliver the tea. Once the weight was removed from the tray, the action stopped and the mechanism would reset itself for the next use... allowing both server and guest to repeatedly serve each other as a form of entertainment.

Although much of this has been replaced by electronic devices, such as the Sony Aibo and the Honda Asimo, the old style Karakuri ningy design is still in use today, but mostly as large scale devices in factory settings as carts for moving large, heavily-weighted objects, like car engines to different parts of an assembly line, as a cheap way to conserve power by using an object's own weight to move it.

Other precursor (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294642)

Another precursor of computer development is Konrad Zuse [] and his work on his Z serie of machine (a series of binary floating point computer with increasing programability, reaching peak with the Z3 being Turing complete).

It's interesting because unlike all the precursors mentioned in TFA, it was not some secret monster developed by intelligence services to crack codes, but a publicly available project with practical industrial applications (to ease the massive calculation in some engineering fields).

This article is typical mass-media slop (2)

Rich Rostrom (2216366) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294080)

A few bits of truth floating in a frothing stew of errors.

As noted elsewhere, COLOSSUS was not used to break Enigma; it was designed to break the cipher of the Lorenz machine (Geheimschreiber). If the Allies had needed COLOSSUS to break Enigma, the war would have been much longer and bloodier. COLOSSUS was not even operational until February 1944. The Allies had re-broken Enigma in early 1940, by hand methods. They read the main Luftwaffe key (RED) from then until the end of the war. They read the main navy key (HYDRA) from mid-1941 on. In 1942, the Germans adopted a special high-quality key for U-boats only (TRITON) which was not broken for 10 months (during which the Battle of the Atlantic was nearly lost). TRITON was finally broken by Turing himself.

Use of the Enigma machine did not "spread through the German military". Enigma was adopted as the standard cipher machine for all branches of the German armed forces by 1929.

The "Turing Machine" was not "one of the earliest modern computers", it is a theoretical model of a computing device.

The Germans did not "[strengthen] their system by changing the cipher every day.” They had more than one "cipher" - more precisely, each branch or sub-branch of service had its own daily settings for the Enigma (its "key"). There were about 50 Enigma keys in use by the end of the war.

ULTRA was the code term for any intelligence from decrypted enemy signals. Enigma signals were not decrypted with COLOSSUS - nor with the electromechanical "bombes" used to crack Enigma. The function of the bombes was to find the settings for a key. The key-finding process tested settings against a "crib": ciphertext for which the cleartext was known or guessable. The testing went on until a setting produced the expected cleartext. Then all messages on that key could be decoded using a copy of the Enigma.

The article is a muddled retelling of stuff that has been known for many years. As others have written, it's not fit for SlashDot.

Beginning of the computer age? (2)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294450)

It's strange that an article with that headline says nothing about the postwar period. So here's what's missing.

In the UK, Colossus was kept secret after the war. But the knowledge gained in its construction was used to develop the first British postwar computers [] (the Manchester Baby, an experimental design, leading to the Ferranti Mk.1 commercial computer). Alan Turing and others who were involved with Colossus worked on the Manchester series.

In the US, ENIAC was commissioned by the Army for ballistics calculations.
As far as I can find on short notice, the Americans didn't use computers in their WW2 codebreaking efforts.

Re:Beginning of the computer age? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294768)

The US did truly amazing things with the codes used by Japan ~ around/before Pearl harbor. Let It Happen to cover the progress made and bring the US into the war... ? [] is also very interesting in pre/war war Germany and post war Switzerland.
But who wants to read about the first functional program-controlled Turing-complete computer (1941)?
Best to stick to Colossus, bombe, Enigma ect :)

Tommy Flowers (1)

JacksonG (82656) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294760)

Sadly yet another article that talks about collossus and seems to give all the credit to Alan Turing without mentioning the contribution of Tommy Flowers :(

Nah ny toilet was first computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36294934)

I have 9 of them in a row. I read result in Hex. It had error detection!!! VEry advanced. 9th bit.

COLOSSUS didn't decrypt Enigma (2)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 3 years ago | (#36294990)

It was designed to break the next German threat: encrypted radio teleprinter traffic...the Germans' version of SIGABA. []
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