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9/8/2006
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British Museum Unveils WWII Computer Replica

The brainchild of Alan Turing--often called the father of modern computer science--and Gordon Welchman, "bombes" such as the one the replica represents were used to decrypt more than 3,000 messages a day from the Nazi's Enigma machine.

A replica of an early computer built to sift through encrypted German messages during World War II has been completed, a British museum announced Friday.

Bletchley Park, where British code-breakers took on the Germans' Enigma machine, unveiled the replica Turing Bombe, and said the electromagnetic computer would enter its commissioning phase later this month.

The brainchild of Alan Turing -- often called the father of modern computer science -- and Gordon Welchman, "bombes" such as the one the replica represents were used to decrypt more than 3,000 Enigma messages daily. They were instrumental throughout World War II in giving the Allies a major intelligence advantage over the Nazis. Breaking German naval messages, for instance, let American and British planners steer Atlantic convoys away from U-boat positions.

The replica sports 108 electromagnetic spinning drums used to test letter combinations that then let analysts match the daily Enigma rotor settings. More than 60 volunteers using original blueprints labored for over 10 years to recreate the computer.

The machine will go on public display September 23 at the National Codes Centre at Bletchley Park, which is near Milton Keynes, about 45 miles northwest of London.

In March, a group of computer enthusiasts combined the power of their desktop PCs to crack several 63-year-old Enigma messages that had been intercepted but never decrypted.

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