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Colossus codebreaker challenge winner receives award at Bletchley Park.

28 January, 2008
Joachim Schueth from Bonn has attended the Buckinghamshire seat of Bletchley Park to receive his award for successfully beating the remake of the Colossus code breaking computer to decipher coded message.
For years, I never knew the extent of what my father did during the war except that it was something to do with signals and morse code. It was only after the declassification of the activities of Bletchley Park and the publication of numerous books on the subject did I understand that he had been part of the team of specialists who intercepted coded enemy transmissions and deciphered them. Now he can enjoy his success, reminisce and visit the Buckinghamshire stately home which he recently did to a very warm welcome.

In his day, computing was in its infancy, a secret tool designed and built with one purpose only, to crunch numbers and come up with a solution to the scrambled messages being intercepted in huts full of attentive radio operators, picking their way through unbearable static and scrambled messages to be able to deliver something usable for the cipher machines and towards the end of the war, the computer to work with.

The computer in question was Colossus, the first iteration of which appeared in 1944 and was a dedicated machine of immense speed.

In response to a challenge put out by Bletchley Park last year, the reconstructed Colossus was pitted against code breakers across the world to once more decipher coded transmissions, a challenge which Joachim Schueth rose to with a laptop running his own Ada programme on NetBSD. The biggest challenge was filtering the signal to obtain a usable message which took something approaching 2 hours of which the programme run time was 46 seconds compared with 3 hours and 35 minutes for Colossus.

Considering that computing technology has had 65 year in which to advance, the performance of Colossus remains something of an inspiration.
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