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by Mike Zazaian September 9, 2006 - 8:43pm, No Comments

A Turing Bombe

British engineers recreate device used to crack Nazi codes during World War II.

After a ten year-effort to rebuild the Turing Bombe, a Nazi code-cracking device used in WWII, a working model was unveiled at Bletchley Park, the headquaters of British code-breaking efforts during the war. Originally invented by Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman during the war, the ‘Bombe’ has three rotors, each with 26 positions, making for a combined 17,576 possible combinations for each letter to be decrypted.

Turing Bombe RotorCode crackers at Bletchley Park used the Turing Bombe to decode some 3,000 Axis Power messages per day, giving the allies a distinct advantage in intelligence during the war. Such Bombes used 108 electromagnetic spinning drums which would check sets of letters and pick out patterns in a given enigma code. After the war Winston Churchill ordered that all known bombes be dismantled, of which there were over 200.

John Harper, the leader of the restoration effort, stresses how spectacular it was to even have received a complete set of instructions for building the long lost Turing Bombe:

We were fortunate in having copies of most of the blueprints of the individual parts returned to Bletchley Park by the GCHQ [Britain’s signal intelligence agency], but there were no assembly drawings…The blueprints covered more than one model, so it was a bit of a paperchase to work out which drawings applied to which model.

Technologies that were refined in the Turing Bombes eventually became the basis for early computer prototypes, making one wonder how popular AIM would be today if it involved the use of 108 electromagnetic spinning drums.

[via The Register]