back to article Turing's rapid Nazi Enigma code-breaking secret revealed

Blighty's communications eavesdropping nerve centre GCHQ has issued two papers written by superboffin Alan Turing on the maths behind code-breaking. The documents, held in secret for 70 years, laid the foundations for the quick and efficient decryption of Nazi Enigma-scrambled messages - a breakthrough that lopped about two …

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Cool.

Methodology and examples.

"History is FUN", according to my eldest niece :-)

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Re: Cool.

Horrible Histories is fun.

IT's an Ancient greece thing?

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Ancient Greece Is The Word.

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Facepalm

I see what you did there.

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Must be a fake

Back then they didn't have Word, so they could have simply typed in the terms. Last time I've seen something like that was from a professor who didn't know how to use TeX.

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Childcatcher

Re: Must be a fake

Not a fake but it is a lot eastier to write it in than type it.

You will notice that Turing was no typist and had dislexic fingers and hence the frequent "th e" so it is not surprising he resorted to script. I have the same dislexic finger issue, mine usually come out as "teh" but this is not a rare problem. It is amusing to think how difficult it would have been to crack Enigma if the Bundeswehr had the same problem.

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Re: Must be a fake

Guess you mean the Wehrmacht, thought the Bundeswehr were on our side, it wasn't formed until well after the end of WW II.

Seriously why cannot they make it available now?

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Re: Must be a fake

I am not sure about this explanation because in those days nobody did any of their own typing. You wrote it longhand or spoke it into a "dictaphone" whatever that was. Then it would go to the "typing pool" where someone would produce your typed copy and deliver it back to you. Admittedly someone like Turing could have been an exception but the culture of "typing" being a specialist (and menial) skill was extremely strong.

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Re: Must be a fake

I'm not going to be absolute with this, but I do 'feel' that dictaphones didn't come into common usage in the 1940's, in fact they were still pretty much a beast when I worked for IBM in the late 60's.

More likely, if you were important enough, you had the use of a shorthand typist. That person would write down your dictation in wiggles and squiggles, then later type it up to present to you in English.

I could also see that when using the above shorthand method, dictating mathmatical formulae to a shorthand taker may prove very difficult as they wouldn't necessarily have a clue what you are on about. Just do the text and let the expert add the 'cryptic' scientific notation by hand would be efficient.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Must be a fake

If you believe that something like this would have gone to a typing pool, then you forgot the context of the information.

You're looking at Turing's typing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Must be a fake

Alan: Can I use your dictaphone?

"Richard": No! Use you finger like everyone else.

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Terminator

Must be a paper

You can tell because of the large equations.

I wish someone would write a program that turned all the sigmas into for loops and all the brackets into += / -= / /= / *=. While their at it they could come up with a seed AI with the goal of making all variable names sensible and at least 9 characters long.

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Re: Must be a paper

Wanna git right on that, Thomas 18?

Just askin ...

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Re: Must be a paper

http://www.w3.org/Math/. Add a bit of JavaScript and you’re there.

And if you can get one to work the other way (source code to maths) you've just saved the world $100,000,000,000,000 in lawyers fees over software patents for the bleeding obvious.

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Anonymous Coward

Perhaps

it could also correct people who don't know the difference between their/they're/there :)

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Re: Perhaps

I think the air is no real difference thier, I mean one is as good as there other.

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Re: Perhaps

Thomas 18 - you forgot to add the compulsory <sarcasm></sarcasm> for the humour impaired...

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Coat

Re: Perhaps

Please tell me you didn't go their. There going to come after you now, so you'd better get your butt over they're!

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Interesting stuff.

Might set these papers as study materials for our students.

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Re: Interesting stuff.

> Might set these papers as study materials for our students.

Well if your students are in Kew that could work. Otherwise, wait until they get around to scanning them.

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Re: Interesting stuff.

A scan will be needed

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Mushroom

"squeezed the juice" out of the two papers...

And out of Turing, too. Yes, I mad.

Now, how does this relate to the work polish mathematicians did on cracking Enigma before the red/brown sandwich invasion?

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Re: "squeezed the juice" out of the two papers...

Biggest contribution by far from the polish was getting their hands on a working Turing machine (was the army version I think that had one less rotor than the Navy version).

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Turing machine...?

I think you mean Enigma machine. A Turing machine is an abstract concept, related to the Halting Problem. I've stopped.

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FAIL

Re: Turing machine...?

Yeah brain fart thanks for pointing it out. So used to saying Turing machine and the word Enigma is very seldom used.

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Pint

Re: "squeezed the juice" out of the two papers...

Unfortunately (yes, I'm Polish), not much. It's not that a lot of the theoretical foundations weren't laid by Polish mathematicians, it's that certain political decisions caused them to fall by the wayside.

However you want to twist it, siding with the French in their code-breaking efforts cost them the chance to work at Bletchley Park. Turing was a brilliant mathematician and computer scientist and he did a lot more work in breaking the code than any other man.

Cheers to that!

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Re: "squeezed the juice" out of the two papers...

The Poles did a tremendous job on the early Enigmas with very limited resources, but got stumped when the Germans added the plug board on the front of the machine. Turing's genius was to solve the plug board problem. So it was in effect a joint effort.

One of the most important additional aspects of the Polish work was to demonstrate that attacking a machine cypher was possible. Without that the British might not have got started in the first place.

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Headmaster

Re: "squeezed the juice" out of the two papers...

> Biggest contribution by far from the polish was getting their hands on a working [Enigma] machine

That sounds entirely too Hollywoodesque.

Looked it up in "Mathematics and War" [2003, Birkhäuser Verlag]

The Polish mathematicians could read most german codes by 1932, but didn't manage to break the Enigma. They obtained a commercial Enigma used by business firms to get general insights into the machine. Then the french were contacted by an employee of the Reichswehr cryptography agency, [Hans-Thiko Schmidt] who sold secrets to captain Gustave Bertrand (but not the Enigma wiring scheme details). Captain Bertrand then contacted the Polish Cipher Bureau, and the final arrangement was that the French were to concentrate on delivering intelligence reports from Germany to help in code breaking, while the Poles were responsible for theoretical studies of Enigma intercepts. These guys actually cracked Enigma successfully

> In late 1934, the three mathematicians experienced the exciting decryptment of a transmission they could read as "To all commandants of the airfield throughout Germany" The signal ordered "the transportation to Berlin, alive or dead, of Kerl Ernst, adjutant to S.A. chief"

> Thus 1934 was the year when the cryptology team of the Polish Cipher Bureau broke the ciphers of the German Army (Heer) and the codes of S.D. (Sicherheitsdienst der SS) as well as codes and ciphers of the German Navy. The Kriegsmarine used three kinds of Enigma keys: operational, staff and admirals. The last key was resistant to breaking for a long time.

The Bombe came later after Enigma keys were changed regularly, but it was all based on the Polish work.

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Holmes

Re: "squeezed the juice" out of the two papers...

Even found the PDF on the Internets:

http://www.springer.com/cda/content/document/cda_downloaddocument/9783764316341-c3.pdf?SGWID=0-0-45-401018-p2322058

Can't be bothered to check whether it's open access by design or by oversight.

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Shameless plug

Oxford University Department for Continuing Education are holding a weekend course to celebrate Turing's 100th birthday on 23rd June. Only £100, it will cover many different aspects of his life through a series of lectures by leading experts.

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No plans to put them online????????

What the hell? Turning is held up as one of the greatest contributors to the modern world, yet they don't want to put his work online... freaking greedy buggers.

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Boffin

@No plans to put them online

Obvious innit. There's something they ain't telling us. Rather than redact such a hostoric document they're keeping it under wraps.

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Big Brother

Now where did I put that baseless conspiracy theory...

Possibly a silly condition placed on them by GCHQ securocrats to enhance the mystique of these papers.

The nameless (again pointless security theatre) from GCHQ interviewed on Radio 4 about this was keen to stress the claim that Turing's papers could not possibly have been released any earlier because of their sensitive nature. We are supposed to read into this that GCHQ are: (a) diligently doing their bit to protect Blighty from code-breaking jihadis, Ruskies and Sino-hackers, and (b) emphasising Turing's total genius (while still brushing under the carpet the injustice of the British state hounding him for his homosexuality).

I don't doubt the importance of this work done by Turing and others at the time but it is farcical for GCHQ to engage in a PR exercise claiming they could not have been released decades ago.

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Kew allows all documents to be copied using their machines or photographed by the reader's camera, stands are provided. So anyone can put these online.

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(C) StationX

'Cept it will still be under crown copyright.

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Headmaster

Re: (C) StationX

Crown Copyright on documents only lasts for 50 years.

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Re: (C) StationX

Then .ru

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Re: (C) StationX and copyright

Crown copyright from date of publication is 50 years.

For anything created pre 1988 and not published its copyright will not expire until 2040 at the earliest.

Unpublished created after 1988 is copyright for 125 years.

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Pirate

Re: (C) StationX and copyright

Nice knowing these things but my care-o-meter is at 0.

Pirate naow!

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Oh come on!

Will you please stop using the word boffin please? It sounds anti-intellectual and childish.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh come on!

Or maybe you could just grow up and not care what names someone calls you?

The terms nerd and geek have already been reclaimed. Why not boffin too?

What the hell is there to be ashamed of?

"Hey look - it's that boffin over there..."

Seems to me it's actually a compliment?

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Re: Oh come on!

wor(l)d has moved on - 'boffin' is now mainly a term of possibly grudging, probably jokingly grudging, admiration.

Sources:

1) my teenage children

2) teh interwebs

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Re: Oh come on!

Maybe I've just been out of touch, but I'd never heard of "boffin" being in any way derogatory before reading about it in El Reg comments.

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Re: Oh come on!

For those of us who grew up on a diet of wartime tales of frontline heroism and derring-do from our armed forces, supported by the home front activities of the boffins and back-room boys, the use of such a term in this context seems entirely appropriate.

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@ Darran Clements (was: Oh come on!)

Nowt wrong wi' "boffin" ...

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/post/1315816

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Re: Oh come on!

You should read some of the tabloid press now and again then. Any time they want to try and rubbish a scientific news item they use the word "boffin" in the context of a bumbling oaf who produces crackpot theories.

El Reg is allowed to use it because we know they are using it properly.

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Re: Oh come on!

> You should read some of the tabloid press now and again then

No. I shouldn't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh come on!

"nerd and geek have already been reclaimed"

You reckon? If I wanted to insult a nerd, I'd call him a "geek".

But boffin has never been, to my mind, a direct insult.

It implies "not one of us", eccentricity, focus in niche areas, otherworldliness, possibly obessiveness, but not necessarily unpleasant or having a grating lack of social skills.

Geek and nerd still imply people you'd avoid on the bus. A boffin would be quiet company, looking out the window and puffing reflectively on his (unlit) pipe.

The boffin par excellence is Barnes-Wallis.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh come on!

"nerd and geek have already been reclaimed" You reckon? If I wanted to insult a nerd, I'd call him a "geek"

Yes I do reckon. If you're the sort of person who goes around trying to insult nerds and or geeks then I'm happy I don't know you. I also wouldn't give a damn what any name-calling moron (see what I did there?) said to me either. It's 2012 for feck's sake.

Can we all just grow up? Name-calling is a useless process and anyone using it can be rightly ignored?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh come on!

I'll admit I could probably have phrased things better but my comment did have the word "IF".

I stand by my position that the words "geek" and "nerd" are not terms of endearment and seldom of respect.

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