The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

The Engima Machine

Carrie Rasak

Posted on August 13, 2019 18:17

1 user

This device was used by Germans during WWII to send encrypted messages. Once it was cracked, the Allies were able to decode all of their messages. I got to see one up close and personal.

Science on Tap is a wonderful program by Cool Science, an organization that aims to make science, and STEM in general, cool again. Most of their programs are aimed at school aged kids, but Science on Tap is geared towards adults. The program here is monthly at Jack Quinn's Irish Pub, which is a fantastic spot in its own right in downtown Colorado Springs.

This month's program covered the Enigma Machine, used by the Axis powers, especially the Germans, during WWII to send encrypted messages. Alan Turing was among those recruited to crack the code, and he did, using the Bombe machine (an improvement to existing Polish technology) to decode their messages quickly. The presenter, Dr. Barry Fagin, is a professor of Computer Science at the US Air Force Academy here in the Springs, and it turned out that the Academy has one of the few working Enigma Machines left, on loan from the National Cryptological Museum! A future trip, to be sure.

The Enigma Machine uses a substitution cypher to encrypt messages, so A would be substituted for S, as an example. You can't have A stand in for A, which was actually one weakness that enabled the Allies to crack the code. The machine has three rotors, each with numbers between 1-26 that you can set, two sets of keys, and numbers at the bottom that use specific cables to tie letters together (you also have the option of not using them). Once that is all set up, type in your message, and record the letters that light up as in the picture below:

Then reset the machine and ideally, if someone were to set it back up the same way and had your key, they could decode the message.

After a brief presentation while we all feasted upon tasty food and drink, we got to try it ourselves! My friend and I decoded the message the people in front of us encrypted, and the whole experience really brought back the feeling of playing detective, something I enjoyed when I was younger and low-key still do.

I truly enjoyed the Science on Tap program, and I'm looking forward to future presentations about equally interesting material. I hope they are all interactive like this one!

Carrie Rasak

Posted on August 13, 2019 18:17

Comments

comments powered by Disqus

A rare and fully operational Enigma Machine was auctioned off for a record price of $463,500 yesterday at Bonhams History...

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest