Alan Turing

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One of the famous innovators in the twentieth century is Alan Turing. He was an influential person who changed the lives of many in modern history. Famous for his breakthrough in computer science, cryptanalysis and mathematics gave aid to his allies to overcome the Nazi during world war 2. He has also invented the computer which has proven to be very important in the modern days revolutionizing the way the people’s way of thinking, everyday life and work.

He showed signs of being an intellectual genius at a very young age. Whenever there was time for the appreciation of classical education and language as it had been the usual way for their class. He showed extreme interest in mathematics and science which rendered him at odds with the system of learning when admitted to Sherburne school when he was thirteen years of age. His average performances in subjects like history and his attraction towards mathematics and science being encapsulated within him would have made it difficult to imagine his significance in the technological and scientific world[1]. But, the intensity and determination to succeed would be his mark during his later and more successful years showed that the not flexible learning system left him unmoved to pursue his academic excellence as per his field.

While his part in revealing the German Enigma cipher machines that were of great help to his allies to defeat the Nazis and his preceding development of the initial computer are part of his best achievements, cryptanalyst and his earlier accomplishments in mathematics.

During the world war 2, the government code and cipher code was located to the Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.  This became another home for Turing’s as he together with other cryptanalysts went over several months trying to break the Enigma which was the cipher electromechanical machine for the Germans used by the Nazis to code and decode secretive messages[2]. The machine used systems called rotors to establish keys for every message that was being transmitted. To break this system meant that one was able to decipher the messages.

The cipher machine was very complex that was believed to be impossible to break. The poor operations and the mistakes of the operators gave a line of weakness to Turing and other cryptanalysts to succeed breaking the Enigma[3]. As he worked, he focused on Enigma’s cryptanalysis. Although the Polish cryptologists had previously deciphered the Germany messages, there was an additional repetition of complexities included in the Enigma, making decryption much more difficult to achieve.

Having a look onto the Polish cryptographic analysis, Marian Rejeweski who was the Bomba creator, a machine that was built to decipher the Enigma, Turing came to a conclusion that the most achievable way to break the Enigma was to come up with an electromechanical machine that that implemented its decryption based on the crib. This was not like the Bomba which depended on the unprotected indicator process which the Germans altered in December 1938 which restricted the Poles to accessing a minor message. Turing together with other cryptanalysts and mathematician began building the bombe to break the Enigma.

On March 18th, 1904, the initial bombe was mounted (Hugh, 2004). It used the crib decryption as Turing suggested as he sought for the Enigma’s right setting used to encrypt messages. Most possible settings would bring about contradictions. It was the bombe that had to detect the opposing settings, remove them then move to the next possible setting. This eventually left minimal settings to be examined and translate in detail. This made decryption useless as he and his team did not possess the required number of bombe machines and labor to fully translate the settings used.

The cryptologists Hugh Alexander, Gordon Welchman and Stuart Milner have lacked a common ground with Turing and his crew on 1941. The decryption done by Turing and his crew was effective on Germany communication but in small amounts. For an effective cause to help the allied forces, more and more people and bombs were needed for decryption of the settings hence messages. The unchanging adjustments that the Germans made added to the complexity of Turing’s task[4]. With the appropriate military networks to seek extra funds and labor force to make the bombes operation available but with no positive results as he had no feedback. They then communicated with the prime minister of Britain asking for aid as he explained their inadequate requirements as compared to those required by the troops[5]. Their cracking of the messages by the Enigma was critical in saving both men and wealth in the war.

`           As per to the account made by Andre Hodges (1983), the letter wrote by Turing and his crew impressed the Prime Minister, Churchill. He then managed his assistants to aid Turing’s crew with all that they needed, as from the machines to the labor needed to operate on them. This proved very beneficial to their work on Enigma.

During the German battle of the Atlantic, Turing and his team tried to understand how the Enigma was wired. Since they were familiar with decoding the messages, they were able to decrypt until they were out of Enigma keys[6]. Later, they were able to provide information on the German’s patrol boats. All his efforts thus reduced the war by two year approximately. Turing’s concepts thus influenced the coming up of other computers.

 

[1] Alexander, C. Hugh O’D. (c. 1945).  “Cryptographic History of Work on  the German Naval Enigma”.  The National Archives , Kew, Reference  HW 25/1, 1945.

 

[2] Gordon Welchman, The Hut Six story: Breaking the Enigma codes  (Cleobury Mortimer, England: M&M  Baldwin, 1982, 1997).

[3] J. N. Wenger; H. T. Engstrom; R.  I. Meader,  History of The Bombe  Project: Memorandum for the  Director of Naval Communications The Mariner’s Museum, 1998.

[4] Hugh Sebag-Montefiore, Enigma:  The Battle for the Code (Cassell  Military Paperbacks ed.), London:  Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004.

[5] Michael Smith, Station X: The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park  (London: Pan McMillan Ltd, 1998, 2007).

[6] Gordon Welchman, The Hut Six story: Breaking the Enigma codes  (Cleobury Mortimer, England: M&M  Baldwin, 1982, 1997).

 

 

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