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50 Years After Breaking the Codes: A Disclaimer

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129973D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 3 page(s) / 19K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

I.J. Good: AUTHOR [+3]


Department of Statistics Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA Donald Michie University of Edinburgh Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 33% of the total text.

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Copyright ©; 1996 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

50 Years After Breaking the Codes: A Disclaimer

I.J. Good

Department of Statistics Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA

Donald Michie

University of Edinburgh Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

A paper by John A.N. Lee and Golde Holtzman, entitled "50 Years After Breaking the Codes: Interviews With Two of the Bletchley Park Scientists," appeared in the Annals (vol. 17, no. 1, 1995, pp. 32-43, with errata in vol. 17, no. 3, 1995, p. 57). We, the two Bletchley Park scientists concerned, were encouraged to review the audio tapes of the interviews and to correct mistranscriptions, ambiguities, and other possible sources of error. We can accordingly broadly confirm the dependability of the directly quoted statements attributed to us, although we missed a few points. We were not, however, offered sight of the paper in final draft and wish to disclaim any responsibility for the pages of prefatory text added by Lee and Holtzman. These contain mistakes, sometimes far-reaching, concerning ciphers, machines, and people, including ourselves.

As a corrective, we urge interested readers to give special attention and weight to the Oxford University Press's second edition (1994) of one of Lee and Holtzman's references, namely, Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park, edited by F.H. Hinsley and A. Stripp -- including, in particular, the chapter "Enigma and Fish" by one of us (I.J.G.).

In addition to the previously published errata, we list below some of the substantive errors that appeared in the original article, together with comments and elaborations that we hope will contribute to knowledge of this early phase of technological history.

Page 32, line 4: "Drs. Good and Michie were together during the spring of 1991. This was coincidentally the fiftieth anniversary of their work together." Their work together actually began in April or May 1943 with Dr. Good's transfer from Hut 8 to join a new project to which Newman had shortly before recruited Dr. Michie. So it was actually the 48th anniversary, not the 50th. Various statements in the same article imply that Michie was earlier involved in the Hut 8 work on Enigma (strictly distinct from Fish). This implication is quite wrong. Newman recruited Michie from Tester's section, which was devoted to hand and linguistic approaches to breaking the Fish codes, subsequently vastly speeded up and partly superseded by the mechanized assault on Fish led by Newman (see Chapter 19 of Hinsley and Stripp's book).

Page 32: The upper part of the second column widens the above- mentioned confusion, in particular by describing the ciphers as "generally associated with the Enigma machines." There were the Enigma ciphers that the Bombe machine was designed and built to break. There were the Fish...