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Nazi Codebreaking Documentary

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the looking-into-the-past dept.

Television 147

sharv writes "Fans of Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" might be interested in tonight's (9 Nov) episode of Nova on PBS. The episode is entitled Decoding Nazi Secrets and will feature the Enigma, Dr. Turing, and "meticulous period reenactments shot inside the original buildings at Station X, including recreations of the world's first computing devices that aided codebreakers". Sounds like a popcorn event to me! " Of course, for those in the States, check your PBS listing for showtimes.

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Colossus (2)

Mr. Protocol (73424) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547885)

Enigma was broken by a machine (or set of machines) called the Bombe. A more complex wheel-cypher machine, called the Lorentz, was broken using Colossus. I hope to heck they show the rebuilt Colossus that Tony Sale put together at Bletchley Park. I had the privilege of standing in the middle of that thing when Tony turned it on around me. It runs on +400 volts.

That was one of the high points of my professional career.

I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547886)

What can they say that's new? No offense, but here in Canada we've seen stuff like this a billion times on the History Channel. It's always about the Brits and Blechley (sp?) Hall. I know I spelled that wrong.

Of course, it would be a total shock if they didn't mention the captured submarine papers that gave the Allies 1 month of free sub information.

David Kahn - The Codebreakers (1)

weston (16146) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547887)

Also, you may be interested in reading
David Kahn's "The Codebreakers". It seems to
me that it was considered a significant work,
at one time, but I haven't heard it mentioned
for a while.

Is this on In Aus? (1)

The_Myth (84113) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547888)

Dows anyone know if this is going to be telecast in Australia either in Cable or Free to Air?

Just finished Cryptonomicon (2)

scumdamn (82357) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547889)

With my first run through of Cryptonomicon complete, it left me wondering which parts of the book were real and which came from the overactive imagination of Neal Stephenson. If you haven't read the book yet, I reccomend it. Maybe when I'm done reading it for the fourth time I'll let someone borrow it. Too bad each read takes longer than the preceeding one. The first took four days. The fourth will probably take about a month.

Beware Ice Weasels, I'm In A Red Penguin Frenzy (1)

Cplus (79286) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547890)

I'm especially interested in the codes that they put up as a challenge. I've never really played around with such things before, but you crypto freaks around here have inspired me, I'm interested in seeing how hard it is to approach with no crypto knowledge but the resources of the net at hand.

Re:Colossus (1)

DoomHaven (70347) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547891)

I believe Enigma was broken mainly because Polish spies managed to acquire a working Enigma machine or the plans for one in the early years of the war. I have actually seen an Enigma machine. It looks like the bastard son of a gearbox and a typewriter.

As well, isn't their software that allows a person to simulate a working Enigma machine? Of course, the version I am thinking of is for Windows...

bbc (2)

PhilA (18734) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547892)

sounds like a series that the beeb did very recently. If so, its worth watching, but its a bit thin on the technical detail.

Incidentally, for a good explanation of how enigma et al really worked, Simon Singh's 'The Code Book' is a good read.

Cryptography from today (2)

Craig Ivey (60906) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547893)

I wonder what the Allies of 1945 would have thought of the cryptography from today with all its primes and public keys...

Re:I wonder... (1)

Julian 352 (112143) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547894)

This stuff has been shown on history channel numerous times even in US. I, not having the History channel, saw it a few times while I was residing at my friend's house. It is mostly that PBS is free, while history is a paid channel. This would allow greater audience to see it. Also, different channel might portray different parts as more important, and show different opinions on the same topic. Anything that will raise the awareness of average person (which is low) helps in the greater cause of free information.

the secret message is... (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547895)

The red frenzied penguin ate Malda's shortsink. Pleased to be reportink to the predesignated posting site immediately for multiple slashdotinks!! And do not touch da blinkin lights!


Please capture and post on alt.binaries.mpeg (1)

Sarin (112173) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547896)

so some people (us foreigners), who dont have access to american tv-hosts, can see it aswell. Thanks.

Re:Colossus (1)

2sheds (78194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547897)

Actually, the inner workings of the Enigma were known before the war; it was a German peacetime invention that was patented in several countries including the UK! One of the rare cases when trade secret might have been a better idea....


Enigma Emulators (2)

jedinite (33877) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547898) uk/andyc/enigma/enigma_j.html [] pplet/index.html []

Two excellent emulators that show how the Enigma machine works. The first allows you to alter the machine settings, but it is not possible to track the electrical path through the scramblers. The latter has only one setting, but has a second window that shows the scramblers moving and the subsequent effect on the electrical path.

If you're interested, for further reading check The Code Book [] (recently reviewed here on SlashDot [] ), Alan Turing: The Enigma [] , and the out-of-print Seizing the Enigma [] .

Question: How do I leverage the power of the internet?

Re:Colossus (2)

Sappho (110326) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547899)

I believe Enigma was broken mainly because Polish spies managed to acquire a working Enigma machine or the plans for one in the early years of the war. I have actually seen an Enigma machine. It looks like the bastard son of a gearbox and a typewriter.
Actually (don't you hate replies that begin with "actually?"), Polish intelligence were decades ahead of English intelligence (Room 40 during WW1, GSCS later) and made significant steps toward breaking one of the keys for a very early version of Enigma (a 3-rotor machine). The keys and the machines were changed regularly, however, and the work of the Poles offered little towards Turing (and others') efforts at Bletchley Park (GSCS) toward decrypting Enigma messages. Turing's methods depended heavily upon selecting individual encrypted words from Enigma messages, guessing what they were, and running the Bombes through (at a rate of 20 operations per second) the possible positions of the Enigma machine until finding one that could generate the corresponding guessed word, and then checking to see if, when set to that position, the machine could decrypt the rest of the message into anything intelligible. Upon the addition of more rotors to the Enigma, Turing made use of modern telephone switching technology to create a machine that could perform logical operations using electrical (not mechanical) states. A significant leap (and one which brought him closer to his long-dreamt-of Universal Turing Machine, a machine which, given certain elementary logic, could solve any solvable problem (Godel had already shown that not all problems were solvable). And so on...

Getcherown Enigma (1)

jms (11418) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547901)

The first thing I thought of when I saw this was, hmm ... I'll bet I can find an enigma machine on eBay.


Re:Cryptography from today (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547902)

They would say, "Shit, it looks like those krauts have finally beaten us. How am I supposed to crack a 4096 bit key when I can't even get 4096 bits of RAM?" They would laugh at the thought of someday having the computing power of a VIC-20. Yeah, you laugh too, but for a different reason.

Re:Getcherown Enigma (1)

Hiro_Protaganist (87503) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547903)

Go here: Enigma machine on ebay []

Sometimes, when I'm feelin' bored, I like to take a necrotic equine and assault it physically.

Paper on the effect of the cracking of Enigma (3)

DrewMIT (98823) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547904)

Here's a paper I wrote a few years ago (as a junior in high school). Not the best writing in the world, but interesting if you're into the historical implications of technology

Throughout the first half of World War II, Allied forces were struggling with a powerful, invisible foe known only as Enigma. Enigma was a device with lots of wiring and electromechanical rotors that was no larger than a television set. The intrigue and danger of Enigma was that is was a device that belonged exclusively to the Germans. The Germans used the Enigma's capability of generating codes in any one of 100 trillion possibilities to outmaneuver their enemies. The exact workings of the Enigma are beyond the scope of this paper; suffice it to say that it was originally believed to have taken 1,000 code breakers working twenty-four hours a day for 14.5 years to break one Enigma code (Momsen Chapter 2). Even if an enemy was somehow able to produce the manpower required to break a single Enigma code, it was just a matter of the Germans turning a rotor one notch to generate a completely different code. What is more is that even if armed with another Enigma, the Allied forces would have needed to know the exact settings of the German sending machine in order to decrypt the codes. Hence, Hitler thought he had the perfect machine in the Enigma and relied on it for nearly all communications to the front.
The Allies' spies were good enough to get a hold on a lot of information concerning the Enigma. They were able to piece together their own Enigmas from Polish plans and they were able to intercept Enigma codes. However, it had seemed impossible to be able to translate the codes into meaningful information. Eventually, code breakers were able to crack Enigma codes within a few months of reception, but by then, the information contained in the code was useless. The Allies turned to two machines for help.
In the United States, project Magic was developed. Using the Polish machines known as bombes, the top cryptoanalysts in the nation scurried to break all intercepted codes. The US had the advantage of being able to intercept Japanese codes (the Japanese utilized a specially made version of the Enigma) which always began with the phrase "I have the honor to inform your excellency" (Momsen Chapter 3). This gave the codebreakers something to hone in on and the US was shortly decoding all of the Japanese transmissions. However, this information proved useless in cracking the German codes, and was not even that helpful against Japan since most of the information transmitted in code was already known by American intelligence.
It was in Britain that the true key to cracking the Enigma developed. Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician was invited to take over control of the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS) located at Bletchley Park. Here in Bletchley, Turing developed Colossus - arguably the world's first electronic computer. The details of Colossus are still foggy, partly because of its partial classified status, but mainly because the secret of Colossus died with Turing. What is known, however is that Turing was able to set up the Colossus machine to crack the German Enigma codes within minutes of receiving them. They were then translated to English and the Allies had a complete knowledge of what the Germans thought they were sending privately.
The information generated by the Magic Project and Enigma was collectively referred to as Project ULTRA. Since the recent declassification of the project, historians have struggled to determine its effect in World War II. However, analysis shows the following to be true: The usage of project ULTRA did not cause the Allied forces to win the war. However, its usage allowed for better decisions on the part of Allied leaders and hastened the end of the war. Also, it is mandatory that historians go over their previous analyses of World War II to determine the effect of ULTRA on individual decisions and battles.
There are several arguments that will be presented to point to this conclusion. First of all, ULTRA provided a direct link to the minds of Hitler and his advisors, allowing the Allies to learn how these men thought. Also, data about ULTRA's usage in individual battles shows that its value was immeasurable in hastening their end. It can also be shown that the events that were caused as a result of ULTRA knowledge would have happened anyway, it just would have taken longer and more lives would have been lost. Finally, it can be shown that since ULTRA was so long unknown to historians as a result of it being well protected during the war, historians must reanalyze previous conclusions on the war in light of its recent declassification.
Part of the reason why ULTRA has rarely been referred to by historians is the way it was protected during the war. Simply put, no one outside of the ULTRA project was ever aware of its existence. And, since this was before the time of great public skepticism and conspiracy theories, there was little to no conjecture on the existence of such a project.
The man who can be recognized for his efforts to keep ULTRA a secret is Alan Turing. The man behind Bletchley Park, Turing viewed Colossus as a child. He wanted to protect it from outside knowledge so he could keep it to himself. Since Turing was so bright and cunning, he was even able to prevent 90% of the scientists working at Bletchley from even knowing of the existence of Colossus. Much like the Manhattan Project, different people worked on different parts of the project so no one but Turing really knew the whole project (Lewin 113). And Turing, though not the only man to see the plans of the project, was perhaps the only man who ever understood them completely.
Knowing that the location and physical characteristics of ULTRA was kept secret for so long is not enough to prove that the existence of the project was a secret. After all, ULTRA constantly produced reams of information about cracked German codes. Turing's response to this was simple. Not only would just a few people be allowed to receive ULTRA information directly, there would be no written transcript of this data. Additionally, all ULTRA information was passed directly from Bletchley Park to the officers in charge of troop movement via one person. A specially trained corps was created to shuffle between Bletchley and all portions of Europe to deliver the information verbally. These were the only people besides Turing and a few others at the GCCS and intelligence officials of the US government that knew of the existence of ULTRA. At first, commanding officers found it difficult to receive orders from lower ranked strangers (the ULTRA messengers), but soon learned it was in their best interest to do so. Another thing that should be noted about the messengers is that they were so well trained that none were ever captured, but if they had been captured, they were prepared to commit suicide (Winterbotham 21).
Another major step to preventing the enemy from knowing about ULTRA was the way in which officials chose whether or not and how to use ULTRA data. If the Germans ever became suspicious that their Enigma was no longer safe, they would've stopped using it instantly. Instead, the Allies wanted the Germans to feel they could use Enigma since it provided direct insight into the workings of German forces. Therefore, no action was EVER made on the basis of ULTRA data unless it were theoretically possible the data was obtained elsewhere. For example, when it was made clear through ULTRA the exact locations of an entire fleet of German U-Boats, Allied ships in the area were instructed to send a sighting signal towards specific locations (Hinsley). Unbeknownst to the captains of these ships, these sighting signals were being intercepted by German forces. So, when the U-Boats were sunk by Allied bombers, German commanders assumed it was because of the sightings made by the Allied ships. In reality, had it not been for ULTRA, there is little chance that all of the U-Boats would have been sighted by Allied fleets.
ULTRA was also protected through misinformation. German prisoners of war were released as unwitting carriers of Allied lies. While in prison, they "overheard" stories of an advanced Allied RADAR that could detect ships and planes a thousand miles away (Hinsley). This false information was relayed back to German headquarters, offering the Allies the opportunity to imply that information that was known about Germany was known from this RADAR, when it in fact came from ULTRA.
It has only been a couple of decades since the existence of ULTRA was declassified (the process began in 1972). However, the specifics of Project Magic and of the Colossus machine remained very sketchy until recently. Sine Magic played only a nominal role in the European front, there has been little public outcry calling for more knowledge of it. However, Colossus was further "exposed" in F.W. Winterbotham's book, The Ultra Secret, first published in 1974. This was the first published account of ULTRA and of Colossus. Winterbotham was a British airman who became active with Bletchley Park during the war. As an indication of how well kept the ULTRA secret was, Winterbotham's book was originally believed to be a hoax by many. It wasn't until the British and US governments conceded the existence of ULTRA that Winterbotham's story was confirmed. Since most of the history on World War II had been written by this time, historians have been reluctant to go back over their previous conclusions in light of this revelation. This is why history books were oblivious to the value of ULTRA and continue to downplay its role in hastening the end of the war.
No amount of reconnaissance intelligence could tell the Allies what the next Axis move would be. Although Allied spy technology had provided information on the locations of Axis armaments and troop movements, it was always hard to use that information to stay one step ahead of the Axis powers. ULTRA provided the necessary insight into the minds of the Axis leaders to win the war.
Throughout World War II, the German U-Boats were the most successful submarines in battle. The deployment of these boats were undetectable by Allied RADAR, and they struck with lightning speed and efficiency. Until Colossus and Magic came online to produce ULTRA, it had appeared as if the Allies had lost the oceans. However, once the cryptoanalysts at Bletchley Park began to decode the Enigma broadcasts, the location of every U-boat was known within two-hundred yards (Winterbotham 128). Over the second half of 1941, Allied naval forces were able to reduce the size of the U-Boat fleet by a factor of 10 (Russell). ULTRA had won back the seas from the German U-Boats and ended the effectiveness of the Axis strategy to control the waters.
Another advantage that ULTRA stole from the Germans was Blitzkrieg - lightning war. Rommel, as the commander of German forces depended upon the element of surprise for his fast, powerful, deadly attacks on Allied territory. However, since ULTRA information was available prior to many of these attacks, the Allies were able to position their troops and supplies in such a way that Blitzkrieg eventually proved to be a useless tactic. ULTRA also provided information about Rommel's supplies to Allied commanders. Whenever Rommel ordered tanks to the front, Allied troops would lay down mine fields. When Rommel began to run out of anti-aircraft fire, The Allies would bring in more bombers (Halter 27-29). ULTRA allowed the Allies to constantly be one step ahead of Rommel, thus avoiding heavy Allied losses and inflicting incredible damage to German armaments.
Another weakness ULTRA revealed in German strategy was the fact that the Germans were often poorly organized. When preparing to invade England, the Germans sent out Enigma cyphers showing that the barges they had built in English waters were inadequately small. Thus, the Allies were able to ignore the barge building and concentrate their efforts on fighting the German Luftwaffe air force away from the British Isles. When the Luftwaffe launched their attack on the British Royal Air Force, they were met with an Allied force five times as large as they had predicted (Halter 18). Germany retreated and ULTRA saved England.
Japanese leaders too, had their minds "probed" by ULTRA. The skeptical Japanese leaders relied much less on cryptography than Germany, so ULTRA was less successful in helping the Allies win the war in the Pacific than the war in Europe. However, Japan did use two forms of Enigma encryption, called "Red" and "Purple." Red and Purple were used right before Pearl Harbor, but since information on the invasion could not have come from any source but ULTRA, and ULTRA depended on corroborating sources to protect its secrecy, the information was withheld. Therefore, the decrypted message was never used to help the US fleet in Hawaii (Momsen Chapter 2). ULTRA did prove to be advantageous against Japan at the end of the war though. Red and Purple cyphers concerning the placement of Japanese troops were key with negotiations to end the war. Since the Allies knew where the Japanese forces were, they knew which Pacific countries were most in need of protection through the peace treaty (Hinsley). Also, ULTRA had decoded information sent to Japanese negotiators detailing what the Japanese government would settle for in terms of monetary, troop, and land losses. Armed with this information, Allied negotiators knew exactly what Japan would accept and were able to control the entire negotiation process (Hinsley).
It is important to constantly realize that ULTRA was the most secretive "weapon" of World War II, and its secrecy depended on the fact that every Allied decision based on ULTRA had to be theoretically confirmed by another source. It is for this reason that ULTRA was ignored in Pearl Harbor. This is also why the German supply submarines, the milchcows, which were stationed throughout the Atlantic were attacked one by one even though ULTRA indicated the locations of the entire fleet (Halter 24). Even with this limitation, ULTRA intelligence was extremely effective in many battles.
As has already been mentioned, ULTRA provided the Allies with invaluable information regarding the location of German U-Boats. The systematic destruction of these submarines made it possible for the Allies to ship supplies freely while hindering the Axis abilities to do the same. There were many other instances where ULTRA provided the key in Axis defeats. In the Battle of Matapan, Enigma signals were decrypted that gave warning to the British fleet that they would be attacked by Italy. Also, ULTRA gave information to the Allies that led to the sinking of the Bismarck in May '41 and assisted the Allied soldiers who were sent to Greece retreat without harm when decrypted transmissions showed that they could not beat the Germans in that battle (Hinsley).
Additionally, having ULTRA allowed the Allies to force Germany into stalemates when Germany had more manpower as well as causing greater German losses when the Allies had more manpower. On the German attack of Crete, the attack was not thwarted, but high German losses made the German attack more detrimental than helpful for Hitler. Also, when Germany won the Battle of Gazala in '42, ULTRA data allowed the Allies to prepare for Rommel's attack on Egypt. By knowing the location of all supplies and reinforcements, the Allied forces starved Rommel of fuel and ammunition while the British waltzed towards am easy battle at El Alamein, ending all German hope of securing Egypt (Hinsley).
Although ULTRA was obviously responsible for hastening the end of several battles, it probably caused nothing to happen that would not have eventually happened anyway. Since all ULTRA data was corroborated, it would have only been a matter of time before careful examination of available intelligence would have resulted in the same conclusions ULTRA provided. An analysis of some of the events of the War prove this statement.
By keeping Rommel out of Egypt, Germany never had an opportunity to gain control of Africa. Had Hitler controlled the continent, many historians estimate it would have taken up to a year for the Allies to recapture it (Lewin 287). Also, according to Sir Harry Hinsley, German control of Egypt would have made it impossible for the Allies to control all of Northern Africa by May '43, as had really happened. Control of this region resulted in the opening of the Mediterranean to Allied ships. The opening of the Mediterranean made it possible to concentrate naval efforts off the Normandy beachheads for the D-Day invasion of '44. This domino effect shows that intelligence gained from ULTRA allowed the Allies to reach goals in quicker times than would have been possible without such knowledge.
ULTRA also sped up the process of winning the war through enhancing communication between the US and the British governments. Since the British Colossus was largely responsible for breaking Enigma codes, and the American Magic was the main source of deciphering Japanese Red and Purple codes, the two powers were forced to combine their efforts. The combination of Magic and Colossus to form ULTRA was apparently unbeatable. Also, since relations had to be strengthened in order to support ULTRA, Churchill and Roosevelt were forced by circumstances to increase their trust of each other. This resulted in more shared decisions between the two countries, thus doubling the thought that went into each decision.
In order to prove that the Allies would have won the War without ULTRA, there are three key points to look at. First of all, since Russia initially distrusted ULTRA data revealed to them since its source was never revealed (Halter 24), all Russian victories were achieved without ULTRA. The decisive Battle of the Bulge, in which Germany was halted from further Russian advances, showed Germany was defeatable without ULTRA's capabilities. Secondly, the US Government entered the war without relying on ULTRA from the beginning. However, many of the battles the US was first involved with (before the full operation of ULTRA) were decisive wins for the allies (Lewin 120). Therefore, American strategy was effective without ULTRA's assistance. The third, and most important point to look out, is the relative strength of the Axis and Allied powers. Germany and its allies were most effective in quick battles and short wars. The Allied forces, on the other hand, were used to centuries of multi-year wars. Also, the Allied forces had greater overall man and weapon power compared to the Axis powers. In the long run, ULTRA did not win the war -- it was inevitable -- it only served to hasten the war's end.
The arguments presented have shown that ULTRA provided insights into the minds of German and Japanese leaders, ULTRA led to wins in many decisive battles, and that ULTRA only hastened inevitable events. It has also been shown that since real information on ULTRA has only become available recently, it is imperative that historians re-examine the events of World War II to determine where ULTRA had a considerable impact.
This conclusion helps to explain a phenomenon that has occurred throughout history; technologically advanced nations will triumph over less technologically advanced nations. ULTRA was a combination of US and British technological superiority over Germany and Japan. The US use of the atomic bomb against Japan was another example of technological superiority, as was the US success over Russia in the Cold War. The final example of technological superiority advancing a nation over others is seen in present day Japan; being the most technologically advanced nation in the world, Japan is capable at holding the US economy at bay. The fact that ULTRA was another technological superiority adds more credence to the theory that technologically superior countries will lead the world.
ULTRA also helps to provide answers to previously hard to explain situations of World War II. Originally, most nations believed the US had developed some sort of "advanced RADAR" that could find all the U-Boats in the world's seas. Yet, after the war, evidence of this RADAR never surfaced. It was, in reality, ULTRA that provided this information, which disproves the advanced RADAR theory. Also, ULTRA explains why Germany appeared so disorganized. It made little sense until recently how a country with such a smooth military machine could be defeated so decidedly. Now that it is known that the Allies knew everything the Germans were planning, it is easy to see how the Allied matching of all Axis moves would make Germany appear foolish. It also explains how the most advanced naval forces of the time, the U-Boats, were destroyed by decades old Allied ships.
Perhaps the most important lesson that can be learned from ULTRA is the fact that history is not static. For close to three decades, no one outside of Bletchley Park fully understood or even know of the existence of ULTRA. Now, it becomes apparent that the current view of the way events took place in WWII may be entirely incorrect. It is necessary now for historians who are truly in favor of discovering the truth in history to examine all available documents and events pertaining to World War II to determine ULTRA's effects in the War.
The most devastating effect of ULTRA to history (and perhaps the reason why many historians still continue to ignore its existence), is that it requires people to examine the ways history is viewed. The question now must be constantly asked of each explanation to a historical event, "Is this REALLY why?" Also, official government reports must be questioned. If two governments are able to keep ULTRA secret for thirty years, while successfully denying its existence the whole time, how can any "official" report be trusted? The answer is, everything must now be questioned; the effects ULTRA had on WWII are nothing compared to the effects it will have on the way history will need to be studied in the future.


Primary sources:
*Calvocoress, Peter. Top Secret Ultra. London: Cassel, 1980.

Hinsley, Sir Harry. "The Influence of ULTRA in the Second World War." Babbage Lecture Theatre, Bletchley Park, England. 19 Oct. 1993.

Cracked German Enigma code as found on page 372 of:
Lewin, Ronald. Ultra goes to war. London: Hutchinson & Co., Ltd., 1978.

Russell, Commander Jerry C. ULTRA AND THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE U-BOATS IN WORLD WAR II. Carlisle Barracks, PA, US Army War College, 1980.

*Winterbotham, F.W. The Ultra Secret. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.

Secondary Sources:
"Cryptography - Enigma Cypher." html.

Fargo, Ladislas. The Broken Seal. New York: Random House, 1967.

Goldston, Robert. Sinister Touches: the Secret War Against Hitler. New York: The Dial Press, 1982.

Halter, Jon C. Top Secret Projects of World War II. New York: Julian Messner, 1978.

Koczaczuk, Wladyslaw. "The Origins of the Enigma/Ultra Operation." mszdp:/enigmaa.html.

Lewin, Ronald. Ultra goes to war. London: Hutchinson & Co., Ltd., 1978.

Momsen, Bill. "Codebreaking & Secret Weapons in WWII - Chapter I 1926-1939."

- - -. "Codebreaking & Secret Weapons in WWII - Chapter II 1939-1941."

- - -. "Codebreaking & Secret Weapons in WWII - Chapter III 1939."

Sale, Anthony E. "Colossus Rebuild."

another opportunity to mention Cryptonomicon (2)

Garpenlov (34711) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547905)

Am i the only one sick of seeing every other story say, "Just like in Cryptonomicon?" It's as bad as Neuromancer in the 80's...

Look, data havens! Just like in Cryptonomicon! Nope, there was never any such thing as offshore banking until it was invented in Crytponomicon, and now people have said, "gee what a keen idea. think I'll set one up." Ooh, encryption! Just like in Crytponomicon! Never mind the many times it's been mentioned before.

Which is not to say I don't like the author... But damn. Overhype is making me sick.

Re:Windows Enigma simulator (1)

slickwillie (34689) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547906)

I believe it's called reading a Word'97 file using an older version of Word.

jeez, couldn't have just given us a link? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547907)

That way peeps who want to wade through your genius of a fscking high school paper could, and the rest of could skip it.

hypertext is your friend...USE IT!!!!!!!!

Show times (1)

jesser (77961) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547908)

Hmm.. the site [] on [] that was posted says the show is playing at 9 pm ET, but my local station says 8 pm PT.

I guess that means everyone should check their local stations [] .

Nova on November 9 1999, 9 pm (1)

jesser (77961) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547909)

Was anyone else caught off guard by "November 9 1999, 9 pm", thinking momentarily that November was the 9th month of the year?

How many sides does a novagon have again? Or is that a nonagon?

Re:another opportunity to mention Cryptonomicon (2)

Trepidity (597) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547910)

I was about to post a very similar comment, but since you seem to have done so already, I'll just reply to yours instead. It's really annoying, especially in this case, where the topic has absolutely nothing to do with any science-fiction books. It's a documentary on codebreaking, an activity that's incidentally happened in thousands of science-fiction books, including Cryptonomicon. This is not enough of a link to justify mentioning the book.

Seen it before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547911)

This kind of stuff is on the History Channel constantly. I can recall at least six distinct occassions where they have talked about Bletchley Park, the Enigma, and Alan Turing riding his bicycle through the gardens wearing his gas mask (to protect him from hayfever).

Re:Cryptography from today (3)

Bill Currie (487) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547912)

Hehe, every now and then, I wander how those guys would react to, say, a dual celeron 450 with 128M of ram, 6.4Ghd, cdrom, 3d card etc. Heck, just the cdrom disk itself would probably amaze them, let alone the shear computing power (relative to their machines) available in just one of the cpus, let alone having two of them. I wonder if a G200 can be reprogrammed to crack Enigma codes, and how quickly it would do it.

The coputing power available for less than $2k these days is just phenomenal compared to what was available at all back in the fourties. And going to the megabuck range of modern computers would seem absolutely magical to those early computing pioneers.

Yes, I laugh at the power of a VIC-20 (and the other PCs of the time), but for both reasons. I laugh at their punyness compared to now, and their might compared to the 40's. Things have come a long way in the last 50 odd years. I wonder where computing will be after another 50 years: will desktop beowulfs have been superceded by something realy wild, or will we be stuck with Windows 2050 running on an Intel Merconium (and yes, I know exactly what that word means:).

Watchable PBS! (2)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547913)

You gotta love a channel that offers shows like Decoding Nazi Secrets, Time Travel, and the Breast of Loch Ness.

If it was still sweeps we'd see a show about a Nazi Loch Ness monster who travels times to help the germas develop an ubercode.

Yeah yeah I know PBS doesn't go for sweeps...

"Hiel Herr Ness!"

Re:Getcherown Enigma (1)

loki7 (11496) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547914)

Cunning! They've switched the Y and Z keys on the keyboard so that only a properly trained operator will be able to encrypt/decrypt messages. Those Nazis thought of everything!


Re:Paper on the effect of the cracking of Enigma (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547915)

The Allies did for a while have the advantage of the equivalent of the plaintext introduction to the coded German messages. The Germans were transmitting the same weather reports both thru the highly-encrypted and less secure channels. When the Germans added an additional wheel to some of the machines to make them more secure, they somehow decided to use the same daily setting for the original three wheels as was used on the machines that were not carrying traffic worthy of the additional security. Duh!!!!

A few good books (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547916)

I'll be interested to see if this show presents anything new on the subject. During the last few years, several books have come out that give a pretty good analysis of the role of code breaking during WWII. These books have the advantage that they have access to declassified material that has finally been released.

For instance, Clay Blair wrote two books on the U-Boat war. In them, he essentially plays down the role that breaking enigma had on defeating the U-Boat threat. Other factors such as HuffDuff (Hi Frequency Directional Finders), radar, convoy escorts, closing the air gap, and bad German strategic decisions were more critical to the Allied success.

Another good book is Combined Fleet Decoded by Prados, which discusses the intelligence war against the Japanese Navy. It really helps if you already know something about the war in the Pacific.

MacArthur's Ultra is another book you might be interested in although it is not as good as Blair or Prados' books.

Finally, a new book just came out that I'm going to get and read; Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America. This one should be very interesting. Our friends in Fort Meade have some of the Venona documents on-line at their web site. I read a few of these, which justs whets my appetite for more info.

Re:another opportunity to mention Cryptonomicon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547917)

Ya know... this post reminds me of []
Crytonomicon when Randy was getting flamed via email by Then again.. your attitude reminds me of Hiro in the great book
Snow Crash []

Re:Cryptography from today (1)

babbage (61057) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547918)

Ok, you've got me -- what does "merconium" mean? I can't find it [] , though I did find this [] , which might be what you meant.

Re:Cryptography from today (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547919)

I can hear them now. Ya know a coat hanger makes a pretty good antennae and that thing is the loudest damn radio for miles around, wonder why they radio the message and then try to encrypt it?

Beats me Sparky but since the invasion ain't for a couple more weeks lets go chase some dames!

channel 4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547920)

The PBS program is a 2 hour cut-down version of the Channel 4 series "Station X", which was shown in January over four weeks.

Re:Cryptography from today (1)

HamNRye (20218) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547921)

What the heck is Merconium?? I tried the ol' google on it and came up with this:

gloria: Squirt Down my Leg
...Proscuitto In Utero * Parent Cult * Merconium Soup * Pregnant Pillow Talk... ml Cached (9k) New! Try out GoogleScout

Hmmm, this harkens back to Intel's river motif, but what is this about ham in her uterus??

Egad, there are strange things afoot for the year 2050...

~Jason Maggard
"Cat, Hat, in French, Chat, Chapeau, in Merconium she's Proscuitto In Utero..."
-Dr. Seuss

Re:Please capture and post on alt.binaries.mpeg (1)

Wench (9309) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547922)

Hey, some of us have seen it already on Australian (or I would assume, British) TV

neener neener neener...

Re:Is this on In Aus? (1)

Wench (9309) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547923)

Been 'n' gone. It was on ABC a couple of months ago. You could try calling them or the shop to see if it was released on vid; dognose just about everything they do these days is promoted & hyped to the max.

Another codebreaker (1)

CryptoFreak (112767) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547924)

Another one of the code breakers at Bletchley during that time was Peter Hilton. He's a very interesting Mathematician who's done a lot of work in Number Theory, Combinatorics, and Crytography. I got to meet him two or three time as a Math/CS undergrad at Santa Clara University [] and his stories are unreal. He was very surprised to see that computers have advanced to the point that you don't have to get up and get some coffee before it's done with the desired computation! He's a very nice guy and I'm glad I got to meet him.

The Poles broke Enigma. (2)

Crixus (97721) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547925)

Why is it that history always credits Alan Turing with cracking Enigma, when in fact the Poles were reading Enigma encrypts prior to 1940? As I remember it Turing didn't become a player at Bletchley Park until about 1943, LONG after all of the theoretical work on the Enigma cipher had passed.

The Poles had (primarily) 3 mathematicians that they trained in cryptography as early as 1936, because even then they feared a German invasion and thought that reading German Enigma traffic would be crucial.

The main person who did most of the theoretical work in cracking Enigma was a man named Marjan Rajewski. There were 2 others, but I only remember one other name, Henri Zygalski.

At one point the Poles were able to intercept a German diplocmatic shipment and capture an enigma machine and duplicate them. At that since the poles had captured some plaintext, with the corresponding cipher-text he was able through substitution to calculate the internal wirings of the Enigma rotors (of which the machine came with 5, but only 3 could be used at once. That is unless it was a Naval Enimga machine which used 4 rotors, the 4th did not rotate however.)

As I recall, the Diplomatic Enigma machine might not have come with a STECKER (plugboard) but it was then a simple matter for the Polish engineers to add that to the diplomatic machine to get a fully functional Enigma machine.

The single best reference I have found for Enigma history and information is THIS [] one. Though it is out of print.

It's a great read if you can find it at your library. Many former Bletchley Park members have confirmed it as being factual as well.

If anyone is interested I have some photos of various Enigma machines that I took at The NSA's Crypto Museum. I'll post a link if anyone would like to see them.

Re:Cryptography from today (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547926)

What does Merconium mean?

Re:Cryptography from today (1)

MrBallistic (88770) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547927)

you need to drop the "r [] ", i think...

Otherwise, that was funny.... t

Re:Paper on the effect of the cracking of Enigma (2)

Bill Currie (487) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547928)

Hehe, just goes to show that if you don't exercise extreamly careful key management, your encrypted messages are effectively just so much plain text. I take it the details of OTPs hadn't been sorted out by then (when were they?). I wonder why the Germans transmitted the same messages as both plain and encrypted text. Lazyness, or were they trying to transmit the keys in what they thought would be a secure manner (but winding up proving that security through obscurity doesn't work)? I guess one other possibility is the same information had to go to paries that had access to only either secure or insecure channels. Still, not exactly the brightest move from a security POV.

Re:Watchable PBS! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547929)

> ... and the Breast of Loch Ness.

Freudian typo? :)

Re:Merconium -> Meconium (2)

Bill Currie (487) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547930)

Hmm, there seems to be two possible spellings, with the one I used not so common, at least in the US. Sorry guys, kinda spoiled the joke, I 'spose :(.

Re:The Poles broke Enigma. (2)

Zalgon 26 McGee (101431) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547931)

One rather dismaying point: The Polish mathematicians who did the majority of the early work were kept away from Bletchley for "security reasons" and were not able to contribute to the ongoing efforts.

It's also interesting to note that initially the Allies were not particulary interested in the Polish breakthrough.


Interesting Parallel (1)

mrchrist (25055) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547932)

The documentary explained how the Luftwaffen "Red" code was broken because the operators were so convinced of the safety of their enigma encryption that they became lazy in their picking of code letters -- "LON" was followed by "DON", "HIT" by "LER". Seems analagous to the recent crack of the DVD encryption, where misguided trust in the encryption (and the apparent failure to consult anybody with half a brain) lead to lazy key selection.

Yet another example of how human error due to undue faith in a "secure" technology can make any system vunerable.


Re:Seen it before (1)

slams (20268) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547933)

However, when it comes to good documentaries and the like PBS does it best!!!!


Re:another opportunity to mention Cryptonomicon (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547934)

Um, except that they have more in common than the crypto theme: some of the characters, places, and subplots are the same!

The novel has Turing and he breaks Nazi codes. If it were a documentary about breaking Viet Cong codes or something, you'de be right. But the novel has Turing and Bletchley Park and Nazis, so what do you expect?

Complaining about Cryptonomicon references is like complaining about Braveheart movies references when people are talking about William Wallace. Or singing tunes from the 1776 musical when talking about the Declaration of Independence. :-)

Yes, it's overhyped. But it really is topical.


Re:Just finished Cryptonomicon (1)

talks_to_birds (2488) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547935)


I finished it and immediately started over on it..

The interweaving of the two time periods in which the book takes place, combined with the way some characters are developed and some not (Glory sure had a quick fade-out..) combined with the wide scope of technical/mathematical/scientific detail made it well worth a second read.

There's been an amazing range of related topics appear: the "Mother Earth/Mother Board" hacker travelogue re: submarine cables at Wired; Cryptonomicon; tonight's show on Enigma and Bletchley Park; seems there was one other thread related to Enigma lately.. oh well, gone now..

I'm still trying to find Kinakuta in my National Geographic World Atlas..

I think it's really Banggi Island (or maybe not..)

Cool stuff..


This show rox (1)

CmdData (68013) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547936)

The subject says it all.

Re:another opportunity to mention Cryptonomicon (1)

takshaka (15297) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547937)

Indeed. Stephenson's stuff is good, but I certainly wouldn't place him above Jeff Noon. Enough plugs already.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547938)

Just watched it. It was really interesting show.

Hey, this one is good (1)

craw (6958) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547939)

I'm watching this and typing this at the same time; pre-emptive multitasking with no core dumps so far. I've watched many of these types of documentaries, but this one is probably the best one that I have seen. For those on the left-coast of the US, I would recommend that you go home and watch this one.

While there is the expected over-dramaticization over some aspects of code breaking, this documentary is very even-handed. Woops, take that back. Now they are getting over-dramatic in their commentary.

Hey guys and gals, what about the development and use of radar? What about the Manhattan Project?

Charlie Rose == David Boiles (2)

craw (6958) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547940)

Whoa, Thank god my TV is tuned into my local PBS station. The Charlie Rose show just started after Nova, and he is interviewing David Boiles. Unless you have been on Mars for the last year, you would know that Boiles was one of the DoJ lawyers in the MS case. And he was the main ball-buster.

Check this out folks

Re:Cryptography from today (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547941)

It's the green sh*t that comes out before a newborn starts feeding.

What about Axis code breakers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547942)

We hear a lot about Enigma & Bletchley Park etc, and the Allied code breaking effort in general, but what were the Axis code breakers doing all this time? Did they have any success? How big was the operation (for instance, I think Bletchley Park had several thousand staff by D-Day).

The only Axis codebreaking story I know if is Rommel's code breaking unit in North Africa. Apparently they were too successful, so some Australian commandos paid them a visit one night and killed every member of the unit. I recall reading that Rommel didn't bother to replace the unit, so maybe that is a sign that the Germans didn't go in for code breaking in a big way, preferring the traditional spy-on-the-ground approach.

Also, given that the Allies were very aware of the vulnerability of codes, what system(s) did they use to make their transmission secure?

Re:Colossus (1)

K-Man (4117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547943)

They were probably counting on protection from the digital millenium copyright act. ;-)

Thwaappt! Boies, not Boiles (1)

craw (6958) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547944)

Subject says it all.

Excellent (1)

DeadMonkey (54395) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547945)

Best piece I've seen in a while.
------------------------------------------ ----------------------
Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey...

Re:Watchable PBS! (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547946)

I swear, I saw something sticking out of the water! It was huge! It must have been...the BREAST of LOCH NESS!!

These criminal must be prosecuted! (1)

K-Man (4117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547947)

Clearly these "codebreakers" are nothing more than pirates violating the poor Nazis' Intellectual Property rights. These delinquents' efforts at defeating the Third Reich's copy protection schemes are illegal, and they are clearly liable for the losses incurred during the war, and for subsequent declines in the sales of Mein Kampf and Eva Braun's Greatest Hits.

Where is the RIAA when we really need them?

Re:Getcherown Enigma (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547948)

Nah, that's just a fairly standard German keyboard layout, I think. They use QWERTZ rather than QWERTY.

Re:Hey, this one is good (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547949)

Agreed! Cool documentary! It is still showing too. :)

Re:Getcherown Enigma (1)

loki7 (11496) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547950)

Makes sense, actuallz, since Y isn't used much in German (in fact, if I remember correctly, it's only used for foreign words).


Re:Watchable PBS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547951)

No it's not a typo it's all explained in the .sieg.

Hack the planet!

Re:The Poles broke Enigma. (1)

Crixus (97721) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547952)

One rather dismaying point: The Polish mathematicians who did the majority of the early work were kept away from Bletchley for "security reasons" and were not able to contribute to the ongoing efforts.
Amen, and yes.

This has always been a sore point with me (The Poles crypto successes being ignored by history in general) becaus I am Polish and we all know what nationality gets the largest brunt of stupid jokes thrown at them.

From what I read the Polish trio (Rajewski, Zygalski, and the other guy whose name I was reminded of by PBS tonight but once again can not seem to remember) fled to occupied France to continue their work decrypting Enigma, after Germany blitzed Poland. They remained in France until things got too hot there for them, and then went to England where, yes, they were not allowed to actually work at Bletchley, and were reduced to breaking low-level German diplomatic codes.

The gentleman whose name I keep forgetting (it was something like Rosicki) died before the war ended when he was fleeing Poland. I think his boat was torpedoed and sank. I don't remember what happened to Zygalski, but Rajewski was rewarded by the Polish gov't with some monetary compensation for his work, and he did survive long enough (into the 1970's, when Enigma was finally declassified) to receive some small acclaim for his accomplishments. He was interviewed by (if I recall correctly) the TV show 60-Minutes, and a Polish film maker did a film about him and his Polish colleagues.

I must say that I think the PBS special did give the Poles more acclaim than history generally gives them, and was pretty well made with the exception of a few pet peeves.

I might get flamed for this, but according to my research on Enigma (and I read quote a bit in a quest to actually build one) Alan Turing's role in cracking Enigma was much over-hyped, and had less to do with the history of Bletchley Park than history leads us to believe.

My other pet peave (and this popped up frequently in the PBS special tonight) is that CODES and CIPHERS are 2 different things. Enigma was a cipher, not a code, and they kept saying "enigma encoded things", which is technically false. For example, Morse Code isn't a code at all, it's a cipher. (this is also a pet peeve of Peter Calvocoressi, a former Bletchley worker who was coincidentally interviewed on the Nova special, and who has written several good beginners books on codes and ciphers)

The difference being ciphers replace a single letter with a single letter. Codes generally replace entire words with groups of letters and numbers, or other words, and actually require a CODE-TO-PLAINTEXT book to decode a message, and a PLAINTEXT-TO-CODE book to encode a message. A cipher only requires a simple key.

If you want to see one.. (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547953)

There's an Enigma machine along with lots of related items at the National Cryptographic Museum [] in Columbia, MD. A lot of interesting things, including an old Cray with a whopping 32 megs of RAM!

I thought the most interesting thing was the newspaper clippings describing the museum's opening. Apparently, the NSA opened it without telling anyone -- and denied knowledge of any such museum for months afterwards.

Good show but is SSL what NOVA makes it out to be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547954)

I thought the show was well done as far as documentaries go. However, there where a couple things that I felt should have been included. They did bring up the American Embassey codebook having been copied. Then they state that once it had been discovered that the "secret" codebook was no longer secret that the codebook was replaced. If I remember correctly, there was more going on than just that and that once America became aware of German knowledge of the codebook that misleading information was purposily sent via the old codebook. As long as they where also touching on German intelligence in trying to get hold of Amercian codes, I wish they would have given tribute to the native Americans which provided one of the best encoding systems available during WWII, which was of course their own native tongue.

But, what bothers me most about the Nova presentation is the web site associated with it. This appears to be text prepaired by Verisign or the credit card industry to promote internet transactions. It only discusses the cost of attack on *individual* credit card transactions via *decryption* as if this is the only method of attack. It fails to get into that if the Verisign private key can be discovered that the majority of SSL transactions can be compromised in mass since it will then be possible to masqurade as Verisign. The fact that the "cost" for attempting to discover Verisign's private key or just a web site's private key are similar to the cost in decrypting the initial key exchange. Also, they refuse to acknowledge that decryption is not the only method of attack against a large number of credit card accepting web sites. Even Linux CD sellers provide alternative methods of attack to aquire the private key or the decrypted credit card information. Attacking the alternative services provided on the same machine or other trusted machines does not carry with it anywhere close to the "cost" of brute force decryption. This lack of admission is one of the reason why there is critical need for third parties to be able to do independent security reviews of "secure" credit card transaction sites. The present lack of such an orginization similar to how Underwritter Labitories (which tests the safety of electronic devices) in the electronic commerice market is a good reason for people to remain suspicious of the Nova style claims regarding web "security."

Why is it that common "Joe" can understand the problem with stating someone is "a little pregnant" while not see a problem with "a little insecure"?

Human error. (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547955)

Just saw the show; well done, albeit a bit thin on some of the technical details /. readers would want to see.

At any rate, one of the major themes would have to be the role of human error in tipping off the decoders.

Wouldn't the same be true for the supercodes in use today?

It's October 6th. Where's W2K? Over the horizon again, eh?

Re:What about Axis code breakers? (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547956)

I was wondering the same thing. Successes on the other side not being the kind of thing the winning side is inclined to trumpet, I wonder what went on that has been revealed, and also what went on that we will never know.

It's October 6th. Where's W2K? Over the horizon again, eh?

Re:another opportunity to mention Cryptonomicon (1)

BlakeCoverett (102826) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547957)

Cryptonomicon was a great read but I agree with this post entirely. More so because none of that stuff in Cryptonomicon is new, it's clearly based on lots of time reading the cypherpunks mailing list back in the early 90's. Don't get me wrong, I loved the fact that it took from those ideas... but Stephenson didn't invent them.

-Blake (who kept waiting for references to L. Detweiller and Assassination Politics to appear in the novel)

Thomas Flowers and COLOSSUS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547958)

So did Mr. Flowers bust out and slap together the Colossus, then just dissapear? Anyone know what else he's done, considering Colossus was before Eniac?

Re:Nova on November 9 1999, 9 pm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547959)

Maybe it will be on again as a Thanksgiving special?

Scripts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547960)

Does anyone knwo of any scripts which act like the Enigma?

Re:Thomas Flowers and COLOSSUS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547961)

According to the show, yeah, and what a pity too... Man, he put together an optical recognition computer for god's sake!!! First time out of the gate no less! Anybody here got anything like that for the resume?

Re:These criminal must be prosecuted! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547962)

Hi, Thanks for the tip to watch TV. Unfortunately, I did not see slashdot in time to catch the special.
Can someone please post the transcript from the special? Also, please post future annoucements days in advance. Also, can you e-mail me a copy of all this, since I don't read threads I start on newsgroups.
OK. Thanks.

Damn, I missed the last 30 minutes! (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547963)

What happened in the last 30 minutes of the show? I tried to set my VCR up, but the picture was bad. :( Bah!

Yeah, someone need to encode this and post on net. =).

Thank you in advance for replies.

Re:Thomas Flowers and COLOSSUS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547964)

I love the part where he (Flowers) was explaining how they determined the maximum feed rate for the punched tape! ...We got it up to about 60 miles per hour before the tape broke into bits and flew around the room, then decided to back off to about 30 MPH... Heh - I swear he must have been the original inspiration for the James Bond character "Q" :)

Early british nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547965)

One of the things that I found interestng about the show was how much the crew at Bletchley Park reminded me of the people you would find at a web startup. It seems to me that the British missed a chance to be the dominate power in the world of computing. Once the war ended there was no longer a place for people that strange. I suspect most of them drifted off to rather normal lives, and a few , like Turing, never where able to make it in a society that valued normality above creativity. I find it hard to believe that the person who made the first computer was sent back to work at the post office.

This is a lesson to us in the US tech industry. Don't assume that just because we are on top of the world now, that we will stay there. If we don't value the contributions of the people who create the technology then our pace of inovation will slow and we will become overtaken.

Re:What about Axis code breakers? (1)

hajk (12707) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547966)

The Germans were able to read the codes used for communication between naval headquarters and convoys quite easily. This was because they started with a standard introductory text which provided a useful crib. Other codes were broken, but all Ultra intelligence was sent to the field using well-managed one-time pads.

Re:another opportunity to mention Cryptonomicon (1)

dmv (33013) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547967)

well, see, you didn't read cryptonomicon or the review, because this is very relevant for people reeling from the book. half of the book was historical fiction, taking place around Blechley Park and projects ULTRA and MEGA and the Engima cracking.

So for people without a whole lot of historical cryptographic background, anything that discusses this history is seen as relating to the book.

Re:What about Axis code breakers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547968)

When the Allies broke the 4-rotor German naval codes via the codes' link to the 3-rotor Short Weather Cipher in early 1943 and started re-routing convoys to avoid U-boats, they found that the Germans responded by re-routing U-boats to intersect the revised routes. The Americans drew the obvious conclusions from this and bawled out the British for getting their codes broken. The codes were changed. The new codes remained secure for the remainder of the war. The conclusion of the Nova show said that the codebreaking had only shortened the war by a couple of years. That is not likely. The Germans deployed a new model submarine in early 1945 that would have shifted the balance back in their favor, given enough production, regardless of the cipher situation. The new sub was capable of overcoming the convoy defenses, even those of 1945 and later, based on speed, both on the surface and submerged, range, ability to remain submerged, etc. If the war had lasted two more years, enough of those submarines could have been deployed by the German navy to restore their upper hand in the Atlantic. But the codebreaking was not the major factor contributed by intelligence in determining the outcome of the Battle of the Atlantic. The tide was turned more by improvement of tactics applied to make most destructive use of the 25 seconds between the time a sub was sighted from the air and the time it disappeared beneath the waves. This was less romantic operations research work -- determing how high the planes should fly, how often, how far from the convoys, to what depth to set the depth charges, etc.

Lecture by Tony Sale on Lorenz code and Colossus (1)

JPMH (100614) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547969)

The text is up on the web of a lecture [] by Tony Sale on the workings of the German's Lorenz code and the Colossus machine, which might be of interest.

Station X was a pretty good series (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547970)

Station X shown on channel 4 (UK telly) a while back was a fairly good series on breaking the nazi code. As for other stuff such as finding the sub papers, I guess this was left out as they concentrated just on bletchley park. There was all sorts of tricks used. Dumping the body out in the channel with invasion plans was one. But if they went into all these it wouldnt be much of series on bletchly park really would it. Anyway I'm not convinced US telivision will give a totally accurate picture. Lets hope it doesnt go to "When code are broken at bletchley park" or "When Colossus's go wrong" with overly dramatic narration..... Brad

A few errors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547971)

The "Bomb" was not polish. It was also convieved in britain and used at bletchley park. To my knowledge the guy is still alive as he was interviewed on Station X. I think he was originally a telephone engineer attached to the Post Office. Another great help in breaking the nazi codes was when a german radio operator sent the same message twice...... Brad

Odder and Odder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547972)

Ok after trying to track down the name of that old geezer who bulit the "bombe" I found these links I still see no mention of the poles.... The poles may have come up with the math. But I dont think they actually created the device itself. though the page does mention the "Polish contribution to code breaking" Can anyone reliably confirm what this was exactly? Was it the idea? because the manaufacture and most likely the design of the bombe seems to rest at bletchley. bugger it I'll email They are rebuilding one and should know... Brad

Re:Early british nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547973)

Britain has always had a deep mistrust in science and scientists, founded on the opinions of the all-powerful tabloid press. Back in the 40s it wasn't possible to be a career scientist, unless you wanted to remain in academia.

What was worse for Turing was that he was gay in a time when being such was illegal.

Re:Early british nerds (1)

Ancipital (19821) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547974)

Actually, Turing was excluded because of his homosexuality. It was tolerated in an academic env., but not in a military. He wasn't allowed to work on the top-secret postwar research into computing devices- something which arguably set the emerging science back years.

One day, he had cause to report a burglary to the police, and told them that his partner was male, by the by, and they charged him with indecency-related offences.

This tragic and brilliant figure eventually took his own life, years before the world was allowed to know how many lives, both allied and german/japanese/italian etc he saved by hastening the end of the second world war.

Of course, his idealised computing devices (partly an attempt on the fortress of Goedel's theorem) helped define a lot of the grounds of Formal Systems, and computation theory. Although the concept of the Universal Turing Machine was more or less an abstraction of Babbage's unbuilt second Difference Engine, he was the father of the modern computer (iterative models being much more practical for most purposes than Church's functional approach).

So his brilliance in breaking the more secure version of enigma (the first one was broken by a brilliant Polish crypanalyst, exploiting repeated day keys, and turing took a lot of inspiration from his approach) wasn't his only huge contribution. It's what most people know him for, but ultimately, hundreds of years hence, his achievements in the field of computation should be seen as more important.

I still think it's a tragedy that we lost such a brilliant mind to homophobia, though.

Just my two pennorth... for my crappy amatuerish noises... :)

This thread is not relelvant... (1)

bpdlr (3132) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547975)

The subject matter is very pertinent, but did anyone at /. HQ think for a second that the heading and the general gist of the story is of /no relevance whatsoever/ to anyone living outside of the US of A? Jesus, you can be so inconsiderate sometimes. This is a global medium, remember?

Bah humbug!

Barry de la Rosa,
Features Editor, Network News (UK)
Work: barry_delarosa[at],
tel. +44 (0)171 316 9364

Re:Odder and Odder (1)

GregWebb (26123) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547976)

I can't remember the precise details (sorry...) as I did this quite some time ago, but...

Fairly near the beginning of the war, we got the Polish codebreaking team to come across to the UK. They'd managed to work out a device which had a number of enigma machines - 4 or 5, I think - operating linked with some complicated extra doohickys, and _that_ gave them limited decryption facilities. I don't know how good it was, but that was the original Polish device.


Not just breaking, but assembly line reading! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547977)

The amazing thing about Bletchley, is not that they were able to read Enigma messages, but that they read so many of them, on a continuing basis. Bletchley must have been a very busy place. The final comment on the show was that the information supplied by Bletchley shortened the war by two years. THAT was an achievement.

Re:Getcherown Enigma (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547978)

Anyone who bids on this should have their head examined: "Appears to be all complete and functioning, but we can't say for sure since this is a consignment item. We have some difficulty communicating with the consigner, so if you win it, hopefully everything will work out in the sale, however, you need to be advised of the third party involvement since it will have an impact on shipping time, etc. Wish we could tell you more, but we've included many pix so you can get a good look at it." "Some difficulty"...yeah, right! I'd have "some difficulty" sending this Bozo any money at all!

Re:What about Axis code breakers? (2)

JPMH (100614) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547979)

I have just been reading Anthony Cave Brown's history of intelligence and deception in the Second World War, "Bodyguard of Lies" (1975), and it certainly was not just the Allies making extensive use of signal intelligence.

The German navy had cracked certain Admiralty ciphers in early 1940 and again in 1943, which were of considerable importance in the naval actions off Norway, and then in the battle of the convoys. Luftwaffe cryptanalysis also penetrated some of Bomber Command's ciphers. Even some of the private messages between Churchill and Roosevelt were intercepted, in 1940 when the American "Gray code" cipher was betrayed by a State department clerk in London, and at intervals between 1941 and 1943 when parts of telephone messages could be read due to deficiencies in the AT&T "A-3" scrambler.

The Germans were also quick to take advantage of poor wireless security in the field. As well as revealing the theft of the "Black code" cipher, used by American military attaches throughout the world, which (as other posters have said) was giving the Germans detailed reports on the British morale, dispositions and plans throughout the Middle East, the Australian attack on Rommel's wireless intelligence unit at Tel-el-Eisa in July 1942 showed just how much the Germans had been able to learn from British radio traffic. Use of radiotelephones, call signs, cryptographic procedures, voice codes, wireless silences for units on the move -- all had been found wanting, and were shown to need deep reform.

However, the comprehensive records also underlined how effective wireless signals could be for deception, and German analysis of fake radio traffic later led to many misdirections. In particular, false signals traffic was extensively used in the deception to persuade Hitler that an even larger invasion army under Patton was preparing to land at Calais. This ultimately prevented German deployment of their main Panzer divisions for several weeks even after the actual invasion in Normandy.

Even so, signal intelligence did give them a strong clue as to the truth:

"In late April [1944], ... after an intensive study of the wireless traffic of both British and American divisions, Funkabwehr analysts realised that when they heard the distinctive traffic indicating that an air liaison official had been assigned to a division to provide a link between ground and air forces, it could be assumed, first, that it was an assault division and, second, that it was preparing for offensive operations. In a relatively short period of time, the Funkabwehr heard all the divisions in southern and southwestern England broadcasting air liaison traffic, and they deduced, with considerable accuracy, that the invasion was imminent, and that the axis of the attack would be in the direction of Plymouth/Portsmouth and LeHavre/Cherbourg." (p.550)

In the event there was no weakening of the garrisons in the Pas-de-Calais; but the Germans began to double the anti-tank and anti-aircraft defences in Normandy, and two further divisions were ordered in.

Cave Brown summarises:

"The German wireless intelligence and cryptoanalytical service -- the Funkabwehr -- had been responsible for a remarkable series of triumphs throughout the war. It would claim total penetration of French codes and ciphers, including machine ciphers; and it had consistently broken into every Russian cryptosystem from the highest commands down to battalions. As for the United States, a high officer of the Funkabwehr would later claim that German wireless intelligence had had no difficulty in penetrating American radio communications because of exteremly poor security. The same was not true of the British; they had learnt their lesson in North Africa. The Funkabwehr official would state that British radio communications were the most effective and secure of all those with which the German wireless intelligence had to contend, adding that the higher-echelon cryptosystems of the British were never compromised during the Second World War. But while the Germans had not been able to penetrate the systems, they were quite successful in analysing the characteristic patterns of British wireless traffic -- particularly the traffic of the RAF signals service. The Funkabwehr official would state that the RAF was not aware that it was responsible for revealing many carefully guarded plans of the British army and thus for many losses and casulaties; and he would add that the only possible explanation was interservice jealousy, which led the RAF to overestimate the quality and security of its wireless communications and to refuse to let them be subject to the supervision of the army." (p.549)

Turing did join very late on. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1547980)

Turing joined bletchly long after the bombe had been built. The man who designed and built the bombe was largely forgotten. Though as I said earlier he was interviewed on Station X and to my knowledge is still alive. on one of the bletchley park sites it does mention the polish effort is included in the museum/exhibits. Brad

The Tragic Case of Alan Turing (2)

carlhirsch (87880) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547981)

Until the close of last night's Nove documentary, I had no idea that Turing had killed himself. I'd always known him as a great figure referred to in other text. The fact that he was denies security clearance and ostracized for being gay is northing other than tragic. It's another example of how the intelligence community can be cautious to a fault. Interactions between Oppenheimer and the OSS are another good example of the paranoid mentality that the spooks tend to adopt. Can anybody recommend a good turing biography?

Re:Paper on the effect of the cracking of Enigma (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547982)

It was in Britain that the true key to cracking the Enigma developed. Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician was invited to take over control of the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS) located at Bletchley Park. Here in Bletchley, Turing developed Colossus - arguably the world's first electronic computer. The details of Colossus are still foggy, partly because of its partial classified status, but mainly because the secret of Colossus died with Turing. What is known, however is that Turing was able to set up the Colossus machine to crack the German Enigma codes within minutes of receiving them.

Colossus was not used for Enigma it was instead used for a teletype based cyper. (Which Station-X codenamed "fish".) Also credit for the development of Colossus must surely go to Tommy Flowers, the telephone engineer who built it.

Turing did not make Colossus (2)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547983)

According to the PBS show, Turing did not make or design Colossus. A person working in the post office (Flowers?) who was somehow related to the project came up with it. It was unique, because instead of relying on entirely mechanical devices, it used 1500 vacuum tubes (compared to the 150 rotator/barrel things of the "Bomb"), and was supposedly the first general programmable computer....although I've heard before the way the Germans had Z1 and Z3 machines which were the true first programmable computers.

According to PBS, Turing developed the "Bomb" to decipher the German Sharp (right?) codes using "cribs". When the Germans developed a new encryption technique (using modulo 2 arithmetic to mask a message with another random message), the allies needed something much different from the special-purpose "Bomb". This Flowers guy came up with the idea to use vacuum tubes, and designed and made the whole thing himself, while people didn't really believe him that it would work.

Also, the PBS special didn't talk much about the US or Japanese. For some reason I'm thinking the "Red" code was used by Italy...I may not be remembering correctly.

Anyway, it is interesting to note that most of the allies' success in decryption was simply due to German user-error and stupidity. E.g., not resetting the code wheels upon the commencement of a new message, or setting them to something obvious or stupid like your name, or "BER-LIN" or "MAD-RID", using double-initialization which stood out in the encrypted codes, using the same phrase in the same place of every message ("Heil Hitler"). I think the Axis could actually have gotten away with it if their operators just used some common sense. Oh, plus, they should've thrown their code books overboard when that one sub was captured...duh.

It was sad to learn that Alan Turing ended up committing suicide because of being gay.

Re:Watchable PBS! (2)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1547984)

Yeah, plus tomorrow they have another NOVA special at the same time on the origins of the universe, string stuff.
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