case study: Alan Turing and the “BOMBE’

Alan Turing said to be the grandfather of computer science and artificial intelligence was the first person to imagine putting logic, or a code into a machine to perform specific tasks. Alan was a mathematician and code breaker who designed a machine that was used to decipher war communications transmitted by the “enigma machine” used by German Nazi’s during WWII.

Russland, Verschlüsselungsgerät Enigma Russland, Verschlüsselungsgerät Enigma


BOMBE was the name of an electro-mechanical machine, designed during WWII by Alan Turing and later made faster by Gordon Welchman. They were working as code breakers at Bletchley Park, an estate in the town of Bletchley UK, which was used as the main code-breaking center for British intelligence during the war. The bombe was used to help break the German enigma codes and was (partly) based on the bomba kryptologiczna, an earlier machine developed by the Polish mathematician’s. However the bomba krytologiczna was flawed at breaking the enigma codes once the Germans caught on to the polish key and was able to improve their code accordingly. The British bombe was designed by Turing in 1939 and was successful at deciphering the enigma codes. Gordon Welchman improved the bombe by including a diagonal board that acted as a short cut reducing the number of steps to decipher codes. The original bombe was named “victory” and later updated with the diagonal board. During the war over 200 bombe’s were built and used throughout the war. They were spread throughout the country in outstations in Wavendon, Adsdstock, Gayhurst. Eastcote, and Stanmore. After 1943 an improved version of the BOMBE was created and the Navy and the Army built 120 in the US.

Alan Turing was later convicted of gross indecency for homosexual activity which was illegal at the time and sentenced to hormone therapy as a form of chemical castration.  He later killed himself by lacing an apple with cyanid. He left no note. He was finally granted a royal pardon after several petitions, over 37,000 signatures, and  59 years after his death.



Leslie Ewen


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