The Stanford Amateur Radio Club, W6YX monthly meeting
- We'll be hosting Ralph Simpson, who will talk about the Allied effort to crack the German Enigma machine during WWII.
The German Enigma Machine: The Secret Battlefield of WW2
The Enigma machine was invented over 100 years ago, and it proved to be quite an ingenious invention! This was the first cipher device in history to use electricity to encode a message, which was a giant leap in cipher technology. The cryptographic strength of the Enigma gave the Germans the utmost confidence in the secrecy of their messages during World War II. While this confidence was justified, it later became their undoing because they refused to believe the evidence that the enemy was reading their messages!
The story of the Allies overcoming the odds and breaking the Enigma is a story of innovation, intrigue, and deception; which significantly shortened the war and ushered in the age of computers. The success of cracking the Enigma was kept secret for 29 years after the end of WW2, despite tens of thousands people working on the effort in the UK and US. This secrecy is especially incredible for us living in the age of the internet, WikiLeaks, and Edward Snowden. Over 35,000 Enigma machines were manufactured, but only 350 are known to exist today.
Ralph Simpson worked in the computer industry for 32 years, at IBM and Cisco Systems. He is now retired and volunteers at a local museum, History San Jose. He wrote a book on cipher history called, Crypto Wars: 2000 Years of Cipher Evolution. He is also an avid collector of cipher machines, which you can see on his website, CipherHistory.com. Ralph lives in San Jose in a restored Victorian house, which is also home to his Cipher History Museum and a very understanding wife. They have three grown children.