There’s a movie coming out this month called The Imitation Game. It’s a WWII story so that got me immediately, and it stars Benedict Cumberbatch. Score! I also feel a personal connection to seeing it because my husband creates computer code. Yeah, I married a nerd.
The movie is based on the enigma code that Alan Turing and his team of code breakers at Bletchley Park helped to break against the Germans. To keep their intelligence secret, the Germans built a complicated machine with knobs, dials, and numbers that would take their message and transform it into secret code which they called Enigma. Ever so talented, the British built a machine of their own and used the code “Ultra” to break the encrypted enemy radio and teleprinter communications at their facility at Bletchley Park. The name Ultra came because the intelligence obtained was considered more important than the highest British security classification of Most Secret and was thus regarded as Ultra Secret. According to Churchill, it was because of Ultra that we won the war, and that it shortened it “by not less than two years and probably by four years”.
Today, you can view these code breaking machines in museums around the world. If you happen to be in the DC area to visit yours truly, you can check them out in the National Cryptological Museum up in Fort Meade, MD. They’ll even let you try your hand at deciphering the mystery codes.