The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Brawn over brains


It cannot be denied that the brilliant minds at Bletchley park were necessary to the success of the code breaking. However, all of their work would've been null if they didn't have the money and resources to build or run the machines they needed. For this reason, the "brute force" was one of the most important factors to Allied success.

The Polish were the first to figure out a way to crack the enigma cipher. They were able to build the machines they needed to use brute force to decipher the messages. Everything was going great for them until the Germans added more elements to the Enigma Machine, meaning the Polish would've needed more machines to continue their processes. They simply didn't have the resources to make that happen. That's when they shared their findings with larger Allied forces. Bletchley Park was able to create all the machines necessary to continue cracking the codes, and had the manpower to run the machines as well.

Later on in Bletchley Park the intelligence was key to continuing to crack the codes, once the Germans fixed some of their "human error" mistakes, like repeating the day code. At this point, pure brute force was not enough to read the messages. Prior to this, though, brute force was the key element to deciphering the German messages.


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1 Comment

  1. floreaa

    Considering the factor of brute force as a crucial step in solving enigma is an exaggeration in my opinion. It is true that without some of the extensive efforts of the Polish, many of the ideas that sprung from Bletchley Park would not have happened. However, the "brute force" that is described is a product of the creative and diverse minds that were challenged by the enigma. Marian Rejewski, who studied statistics, had to think creatively and find logic and reasoning within the cyphertext. Once he figured out that the letter chains were unaffected by the plugboard settings and that each combination of chain lengths were related to a specific set of initial positions, his team worked tirelessly to create a catalogue of all the set initial positions. Without Rejewski's brilliancy, his team would not have been able what they should have allocated their brute force towards.

    It was also argued that the British were so successful in creaking enigma because they had the money, materials and manpower to build the machines. However, the idea for a machine had to exist before Britain could even fund the project. People with great minds such as Alan Turning had to think long about the problem and design a great machine that could solve any enigma message everyday. While "brute force" played a strong factor in following through with some of the work that the brains did, the people that took the time to do the mental power lifting are the largest reason that Enigma was broken.

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