The machines that sparked the computer age. From Enigma to Colossus.

Posted: May 31, 2011. At: 5:20 AM. This was 6 years ago. Post ID: 1462 []

The world war was fought not just with bullets and artillery, but also with computers, creating and cracking even more complex codes that were beyond the human mind`s capability to break. The German Enigma machine was the machine that created the most complex code of the war, and had 150,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible code combinations, but allied researchers undoubtedly helped by spies where able to see and reverse engineer the workings of the machine and work out how the codes were generated and then they built the Bombe machine that was able to decode the messages. Although the Germans where changing the code cipher every day, but by 1940 they were still managing to crack Luftwaffe messages and help the war effort immensely. The machines developed by the allies became more and more elaborate ending in the development of the Colossus computer, a massive machine dedicated to cracking the German Enigma codes. The Colossus was the first electronic programmable computer the predecessor of the famous ENIAC, data was input by paper tape at 5,000 characters per second and if it found a likely solution to a coded message it would output the data to an electric typewriter. The most valuable data gathered by the Colossus machine was transmissions sent from German high command prior to D-Day that provided information on enemy troop movements that helped the allies prepare for the Normany landing. The Germans believed that the Enigma machines where foolproof but they overlooked the weaknesses in the cryptography system and where beaten by their own overconfidence.

Colossus computer.
Colossus computer.

Nowadays, with social networking and websites everywhere displaying all sorts of information about military hardware and Google Earth allowing anyone to look down on the Earth from above and see what is going on anywhere in the world at the time when the satellite pictures were taken of course, and soldiers uploading video of front line engagements to Internet video sharing websites like Youtube, it is even more important that secrecy be maintained, but like those photos of the downed helicopter in Osama Bin laden`s backyard, the information will always find a way to get out to the public. World War 2 would have been much different if we had Twitter and Facebook that is for sure, we live in the information age these days where anyone can run a huge “Botnet” or network of compromised machines and crack codes but with files like the Wikileaks insurance file encrypted with 256 bit AES encryption there is a whole new level of encryption out there that is beyond wildest dreams of the Enigma machine designers.

But that is why we are designing even faster and faster computers to crack encryption like this, if we had Quantum computers we would be able to crack encryption like this in a second or so but the problem is that you need a correct answer out of the system and it breaks down if the operation at the quantum level is observed. But this problem will be overcome eventually and then any encryption will be wide open in an instant. Then we will have to develop quantum encryption codes that will be even more secure that what we have now. Some researchers in Australia have managed to teleport data from one place to another instantaneously and keep the data intact. [] this is amazing, imagine if we could send data instantly to a far away space craft like the subspace transmissions in Star Trek. This is in the early stages but it is possible that they will work out how to send even more and more data until we can send images and text back and forth instantaneously without any problems. This is the future now, and with quantum level encryption we could send data with total safety knowing it is securely encrypted and safe from prying eyes.

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