Colossus Challenge Pt 4

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On Day Two, Colossus at last had a message to work with and in 3 hours 35 mins found the elusive wheel settings of the Lorenz machine. But someone -- in Germany -- had beaten Colossus to it ...

An amateur enthusiast from Germany. Joachim Schueth from Bonn, was first to crack the message using a program he wrote specifically for the Cipher Challenge.

Andy Clark of TNMOC said: "Colossus has managed to crack the Germans' code just like the old days -- although thankfully today's message was entirely peaceful in content. Mr Schueth has done fantastically well to decipher the messages first. We are delighted and most impressed by his work.”

Adverse atmospheric conditions produced by the sun spot cycle had interfered with Bletchley Park's reception of the Paderborn transmissions on Thursday and while Joachim Schueth was working his way to success, the Colossus team at Bletchley was struggling to get a signal – "reminiscent of certain modern-day mobile phone networks," said Andy Clark.

Verifiable cipher text was eventually obtained on the evening of Day One and transferred to punched paper tape for Colossus. That text was loaded on Colossus at 0855 on Day Two and the machine started. By 1315 it had cracked the hardest of the cipher challenge messages, which had content relating to the Heinz Nixdorf Museum in Paderborn.

Andy Clark said: "The official run time for Colossus cracking the code was three hours and 35 minutes - we had 45 minutes 'injury time' when we had to replace a valve!"

"On the strength of today's performance, Colossus is as good as it was six decades ago,” said Tony Sale. “We are delighted to have produced a fitting tribute to the people who worked at Bletchley Park and whose brainpower devised these fantastic machines which broke these ciphers and shortened the war by many months.”

Meanwhile Joachim Schueth's time was clocked at a mere 46 seconds! Speaking in front of Colossus in the following January, Joachim said: “It was unfair because I was using a modern PC, while Colossus was created more than 60 years ago. It really is astonishing and humbling that the world’s first programmable, digital computer was created in the 1940s. Without those Bletchley Park pioneers, I would be out of a job.” He also added that he would like to thank the code-breakers of Bletchley Park for enabling his parents to live normal lives much sooner than might otherwise have been the case.

If you would like to hear the intriguing story of how Tony Sale and his team managed to rebuild Colossus despite the secrecy that surrounded the original machine, come to a talk by Phil Hayes on 7 December 2017: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/EMMLDK

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