Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Enigma Machine!

Hi everyone it's been quite a while since my last blog post. I've been suffering a bit from writer's block if I'm honest! However some recent inspiration (stemming from my enthusiast for 21st century history) has compelled me to talk about the Enigma machine! Namely what it is and does, who created it and thus it origins, what it was used for and how it's viewed today.

The Origins of Enigma.

It was created at the end of World War I (1914-1918) by Arthur Scherbius, a German Engineer. His early life consisted of working for electrical firms that eventually led him to create the Enigma machine.

You can find out more about his life here Arthur Scherbius

Arthur Scherbius
The first models were used early in the 1920's commercially and were eventually adopted by the government and military for different countries, most notably by Nazi Germany before and during WWII. (1939-1945)

The Enigma Machine: What it is and it's purpose.

The Enigma machine is a device made up of electrical and mechanical parts. It is embedded with an electrical signal that passes through wires and such that become capable of enciphering (creating secret messages) and deciphering (breaking) secret messages.

German Military Enigma Machine  
This is actually a more complex version of the original design, a military version created by the Germans, but the principles are the same.

The basic inner working of the device that makes it encrypt messages is substituting letters. So for example if I tapped the letter T, it would switch with another letter like A, or if tapped I, it would substitute it for M and so forth creating a secret message, something that is "undecipherable."

On the other hand they can also be used to decode the secret message. In order to do this the recipient has to know the settings of the rotor wheels. (part of what encrypts the message)

The Polish were the first to accomplish breaking Enigma in 1932, more specifically cryptologists, Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zyagalski who worked for Polish Military Intelligence.

As Wikipedia states "Rejewski reverse-engineered the device using theoretical mathematics and material supplied by French military intelligence."

In 1938 the enigma machine was repeatedly added more complexity making it increasingly difficult for messages to be decrypted. As a result a larger number of people and supplies were required to cope with this new level of encryption.

The Use of Enigma.

The Enigma machine was vital and instrumental to aiding efforts in WWII. For example in the Battle of the Atlantic (running for most of the period of the war itself) the German u boats were able to co-ordinate their attacks, what has been dubbed as "wolf pack tactics" against Allied shipping.
Enigma machine - Military Museum

However due to British Scientists eventually being able to crack the German code, the allied ships could avoid the enemy and begin attacks of their own. Historians predict that due to the British and Polish cracking the code, the war was shortened by what could have been almost a decade of fighting.

Alan Turing and his achievements.

One individual that has been particularly credited for this was a British Mathematician, Alan Turing (1912-1954). I recently come to know of him from the film The Imitation Game (2014) played excellently by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Alan Turing
The film depicts Alan Turing's life, his social awkwardness at interacting with others and his orientation of being a homosexual where back in the early twentieth century it was by law a crime. It also talks about some of his achievement's with Enigma at Bletchley Park.

One of the most extraordinary things Turing accomplished was breaking naval enigma. He did this by using a statistical technique called Banburismus (commonly known as sequential analysis). This technique helped reduce the number of settings Enigma needed to decode the German messages, making it faster than what their Polish counterparts had achieved.

Where previously it had taken weeks to now only took a matter of days and sometimes hours to decrypt them.

However his accomplishments also influenced the war in another way, in what is known as Colossus.

The Colossus Computer.

Colossus was the first digital computer that was programmable (in what has been named the first generation of modern computers). It was developed for British Code breakers during WWII. It was designed by British engineer Tommy Flowers.

Tommy Flowers.jpg
Tommy Flowers
In 1941 Turing and Flowers came together as he wanted Flowers to help build a decoder for the machine Turing had designed that broke the German messages faster. However this failed, but later on Flowers designed Colossus. Though Turing did not design it with him, Alan's use of probability in cryptoanalysis contributed to the computer's design.

Colossus Computer

Due to this invention by Flowers and contribution from Turing's previous statistical techniques, the Colossus computer was vital to the allies cause. Without this they would have been deprived of crucial military intelligence that contained encrypted high level messages of the German's army commands in Europe.

Due to these five engineers, the Polish M. Rejewski, J. Rozycki and H. Zyagalski for first breaking the enigma code. Then the British, Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers, for decoding the messages faster and more efficiently with the cracking of naval Enigma and inventions like the Colossus. The war was shortened and many lives saved.  

It also led the way for what we know as first generation of the modern computer continuing on to make new and improved computers like laptops and such.

Put simply as Simon said to me without them I would not be able to write this blog about them! Oh the irony!

These five individuals accomplishments in History are astounding and as such for me needed to be written about.

If you'd like to find out more about these individuals, you can click on the links here

Alan Turing,  Tommy Flowers Henryk ZygalskiMarian Rejewski,  Jerzy Rozycki

So lets pull ourselves out of the distant past to the more present future and talk about the Enigma Machine today.

Enigma Machine Today.

It wasn't until the 1970's when the story of how Enigma was broken came to light. Since then interest has grown with Enigmas now in the hands of history enthusiasts (I've got to get me one of those!) and private collectors.

There are also display of different Enigmas in museums all around the world. For example Wikipedia cites the National Cryptologic Museum in Maryland, USA.

File:US M1 enigma analog 3.jpg
An Enigma Machine at the NCM in Maryland, USA.

They are also exhibited at the Science Museum in London and Bletchley Park itself where Simon himself has been to back in 2009!

Bletchley Park 
Naval M4 Model 

Thanks for letting me use the pictures mate!

Enigma machines are also sold at auction occasionally and Wikipedia states "Replicas are available in various forms an exact reconstructed copy of the Naval M4 model!"

So the Enigma machine has had a long and interesting history that led to the shortening of the war and was the stepping stone to the first modern computer due to the minds of the men mentioned in this blog! Hope you enjoyed reading!

This is Jamie warping off into the unknown! Punch it!

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