Who:   Invited Speaker, Ralph Simpson
What:   Talk on cracking the Enigma Machine, featuring a real, working machine from WWII!
Where:   Packard, Room 202
When:   Tues, Jan 9th, 7:30pm


The Race to Crack the Nazi Code

The Enigma machine was a cunning invention and major advance in cipher technology, which gave the Germans confidence in the secrecy of their messages during World War II. This was a reasonable confidence but proved to be wrong and eventually fatal. The story of the Allies conquering the overwhelming odds against breaking the Nazi code is a story of ingenuity and intrigue. Alan Turing led the Allies efforts to break the Enigma, which significantly shortened the war and ushered in the age of computers.

The success of cracking the Enigma was kept secret for 29 years after the end of WW2, despite 15,000 people working on the effort. 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 350 are known to exist today. You will see one of these rare machines and have a chance to type in your own secret messages.


Ralph Simpson worked in the computer industry for 32 years, at IBM and Cisco Systems. He is now retired and volunteers at a local 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, CipherHistory.com. Ralph lives in San Jose in a restored Victorian house, which is also home to his Cipher History Museum and a very understanding wife. They have three grown children.