On the 4th of September 1939, a day after the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, Alan Turing reported to Bletchley Park, the wartime station of the British code-breaking organisation. Among his chief tasks was to decrypt coded messages generated by the German military’s cipher machine, the Enigma. Turing was chosen because of his expertise in logical and mathematical cryptology as well as his conception of a “universal computing machine”, capable of performing any computation as long as it was representable as an algorithm.
This “universal computing machine”, or the Turing machine, was a critical factor in the design and construction of the ‘bombe,’ a machine that would help break the Enigma codes. Pitting machine against machine, Turing’s ‘bombe,’ nicknamed Victory, broke the Enigma code used by German U-Boats to prey on the North Atlantic merchant convoys that were loaded with essential war-time supplies for Britain. Conservative estimates roughly quantify that if the U-Boat Enigma had not been broken, World War 2 may have continued for another 2-3 years, costing another 14-21 million lives.
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