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Cracking the Enigma: The Secret Battlefield of WW2

September 20 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Description of talk:

WW1 was the first war to use radio, which was an enormous advantage on the battlefield. But the weakness of existing manual ciphers meant every country now had their secret messages broken by the enemy! This vulnerability was the driving force for the invention of more advanced machine ciphers and was the beginning of crypto warfare. The Enigma machine was invented during this time and was the first cipher device to use electricity. So, radio was directly responsible for the resulting explosion of crypto warfare, which continues to this day.


The Nazis used the Enigma in WW2 and had the utmost confidence in the secrecy of their messages, despite evidence of enemy codebreaking. The story of Allied codebreaking during WW2 is a story of innovation, intrigue, and deception. The success of cracking the Enigma was kept secret for 41 years, until 1974, despite tens of thousands of 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 400 exist today.

Ralph Simpson Bio:

Ralph Simpson worked in the computer industry for 32 years, working for IBM and Cisco Systems. He started as a systems engineer for large mainframe computers and held a variety of technical and management roles, including authoring an IBM Technical Manual on redundant systems.  He retired as Senior Director for Service Strategy at Cisco Systems, with responsibility for 2,500 engineers.


Ralph is now retired and volunteers at History San Jose and the Computer History Museum. 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, 

Authentic and working German Enigma machine from 1941 & Ralph Simpson in his “home museum”
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RSVP here!!


September 20
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm


CHRS Radio Central
2152 Central Avenue
Alameda, 94501 United States
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510 522 1974
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