Flutterby™! : It's the Bombe!

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It's the Bombe!

2006-09-07 15:44:08.176155+00 by petronius 3 comments

Volunteers at Bletchley Park Museum, site of the Brit's historic program for breaking Hitler's ENIGMA code, have rebuilt one of the Bombes. These were the electromechanical computers that quickly translated German messages into clear language, once codebreakers delivered the algorithim of that day's code machine settings. In particular, their rapid determination of U-boat deployment in the Atlantic saved thousands of lives in the convoys, and may have shortened the war by 2 years. The finished machine is 6 feet high, 7 feet long, and weighs more than a ton.

[ related topics: History Boats Machinery Cryptography Dictators ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2006-09-07 16:58:45.662815+00 by: Dan Lyke

Looks like you need to fix the link! Here's the Bletchley Park Museum page, and I find the "Bombe Rebuild Enters Commissioning Phase" (and how's that pronounced? As in "someone set us up the..."?), and Bletchley Park Photos November 2004 has some pictures of the rebuild.

This old picture of the front matches with these modern pictures on Flickr.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-09-07 19:23:11.342693+00 by: petronius

The link is fixed ( ah, for want of a "). The Flickr pics are great. What is fascinating is seeing a bombe shiny and new, instead of as a faded gadget in a museum. I also wonder how to pronounce "bombe", and why that name is used. Even if it's taken from the Polish, why use the name of a dessert?

#Comment Re: made: 2006-09-07 20:20:26.992687+00 by: Dan Lyke

As I roll "bombe" across my tongue, the best thing I'm coming up with is Peter Sellars[Wiki] as Inspector Cluseau's pronunciation of "bomb".

I find the final paragraph of that article interesting:

At the end of the war, Churchill ordered all but a few machines destroyed. The survivors were used to decode Warsaw Pact signal traffic in the early years of the Cold War. The bombe and its successor machines remained secret until the mid-1990s.

I guess I can see destroying them, the less of them there are the easier it is to keep the secret, but I find it fascinating that the Warsaw Pact nations kept using encryption technologies that had to be suspect come the end of WWII, and that even in light of half a century of computers there was technology in there that people thought needed to be kept secret.