Friday, November 16, 2007

UK Colossus Computer Decrypting Messages Again!

The huge, vacuum-tube- and paper-tape-based Colossus computer, widely accepted as the first truly programmable machine, will be put to work breaking Nazi coded messages again. These will be real intercepts of transmissions with the original German WWII encipherment devices by special event hams in Germany. The copy from receivers in the UK will be put through a replica of the original 10 Colossus machines that helped win the war by deciphering the Lorenz transmissions sent to the secret crypto facility at Bletchley Park.

All plans to the Colossus were destroyed for secrecy, but this is as close as anyone can get. It still uses tubes and a paper tape reader, and so it is still, uh, colossal. A standard COTS personal computer will be programmed to emulate the Colossus, and decryption times will be compared.


Last Updated: Thursday, 15 November 2007, 14:59 GMT

Colossus cracks codes once more

By Mark Ward
Technology Correspondent, BBC News website

For the first time in more than 60 years a Colossus computer is cracking codes at Bletchley Park.


The re-built Colossus will be put to work on intercepted radio messages transmitted by radio amateurs in Paderborn, Germany that have been scrambled using a Lorenz SZ42 machine - as used by the German high command in wartime.


Speaking to the BBC, Andy Clark, one of the founders of the Trust for the National Museum of Computing, said radio problems had stopped the challenge getting under way on time.

"The radio path has not been particularly good between Germany and here," he said. "We are at a bad point in the sunspot cycle."

Signals had improved throughout the day, he added, and he hoped to get 100% of the ciphertext - the code - through soon.

Stay tuned...