Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Day 2: In Which We Attend to Codebreaking

By Shua Starkey

It's 9:49 AM. We're currently on the train to Bletchley Park. I'm having a discussion with my trip mates about antimatter, politics, and philosophy. It's a strange train trip. Pretty sure our neighbors behind us are starting to get annoyed. More updates when we get to Bletchley Park.

12:15. We just explored the Bletchley Park museum and are about to go on a walking tour of the grounds. When Bletchley Park was an active military installation, this place had over 8500 individuals in and out of its grounds daily and each working to break cryptograms and ciphers intercepted by listening posts. Truly remarkable work.

Now 2:50. Only had a brief interlude after the grounds tour and we were off again to a new exhibit: Colossus and the work it did to break the Lorentz machine. The Lorentz machine was a complicated encryption machine that was put into use by the Nazis prior to the end of World War II. Considerably more complicated than the Engima, it was nevertheless broken by a brilliant British mathematician who was able to reverse engineer its components without ever seeing the machine at all. The Colossus was the response to crack the Lorentz and also was the first true computer of the modern age. Absolutely extraordinary. 

We just left the Park at 3:30. Now on the train back to London Euston station. Part of the group left after the Colossus exhibit. The other half of us went to the National Museum for Computing which is also on the grounds of Bletchley Park. I would have spent hours in there if we didn't have to catch the last train to Evensong. We say the Elliot 903 computer running a modified form of BASIC as well as the Harwell Dekatron. Truly fascinating stuff. It's been a great day. 

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