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The Imitation Game - TURING'S BOMBE CALLED VICTORY

TURING'S BOMBE CALLED VICTORY (Illustration) World War II STEM Film Tragedies and Triumphs World History Social Studies

Because Churchill ordered all the code-breaking hardware to be destroyed at Bletchley Park, after Germany surrendered, original devices did not survive. This image depicts a rebuilt Turing bombe. The first-such Turing-Welschman bombe was called "Victory." It was installed, for a time, in Hut 1. Ted Coles took this picture of the working, rebuilt bombe at Bletchley Park (which is called "Phoenix"). He has released his photo into the public domain.

 

Dr. Shaun Wylie, who knew Turing, remembers that “machines and ideas” were Turing’s real love.  He was able to fuse both of his interests when he created his first decoding machine - dubbed “Victory” (not “Christopher”) - with Gordon Welchman (head of Hut 6).

Turing used his pre-war research, “On Computable Numbers,” to create primitive computing machines known as “bombes” (nicknamed “Bronze Goddesses”) which acted like search engines.  Without his insights, critical breakthroughs into systematic code-breaking would likely have never happened.
                        
Dr. Jack Good, who worked with Turing in Hut 8 (and is portrayed by James Northcote in “The Imitation Game”), believed that Turing’s bombe was invaluable:

Turing’s most important contribution, I think, was of part of the design of the bombe, the cryptanalytic machine. He had the idea that you could use, in effect, a theorem in logic which sounds to the untrained ear rather absurd; namely that from a contradiction, you can deduce everything.

The bronze goddesses were electromechanical machines in bronze cabinets.  They checked messages, at high speed, for possible combinations.  And ... significantly ... Turing’s decoding machine incorporated Enigma’ flaw.

What was Enigma’s flaw? Any letter of the code could never become itself.  Ever. 

Dr. James Grime explains why that flaw made such a difference to Turing and his Station X colleagues in this Numberphile video.

Turing knew that fact, so when he created his system to crack Enigma, he built that flaw into his code-breaking strategy.

Every day Turing would draw up a menu of possible combinations (because Enigma changed every single day, at midnight). Operators would set the bombes to test the intercepted and encrypted messages against the possible combinations on Turing’s menu.  

The bombe machine processed the possible Enigma combinations by applying electrical current to those possible combinations. "Victory," as the very first machine was dubbed, greatly speeded-up the decoder’s analysis by running the potential combinations electrically (via electrical circuits), eliminating the need to process intercepts by hand.  

The decoding machine, which was initially placed in Hut 1 at Bletchley Park, applied electrical current to the decoder’s assumptions.  If those deductions were all wrong, the bombe gave the decoder that information instantaneously via electrical circuits.

Put differently ... the bombe came up with the right answers by a process of elimination.  So the product of the bombe’s analysis reveals what was not wrong.  The decoders would then check that result by hand to see if it worked.

The bombe was so fast that it could go through all the rotor positions, of a 4-rotor machine, in about twenty minutes. 

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 31, 2014

Updated Last Revision: May 12, 2018


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"TURING'S BOMBE CALLED VICTORY" AwesomeStories.com. Dec 31, 2014. Oct 23, 2018.
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