Colossus Challenge

To celebrate the rebuilding of the WWII code breaking machine Colossus, the National Museum of Computing is running a challenge. During 15th and 16th November, historic Lorenz SZ42 ciphertext will be transmitted by radio amateurs at Heinz Nixdorf MuseumForum in Paderborn, Germany at the following times and frequencies preceded by a preamble in RTTY. The preamble message, which contains information needed to receive the SZ42 transmission is here. The ciphertext will be received by two teams of amateur codebreakers at Bletchley Park. The first will comprise members of the Milton Keynes Amateur Radio Society operating amateur radio station callsign GB2BP and using modern equipment. The second team will use the same type of equipment as used in the intercept station in Knockholt in WWII. This equipment includes AR88 receivers with undulators connected for hardcopy output on strip tape. Tony Sale, who led the 14-year Colossus rebuild project, said it was not clear whether the wartime technology or a modern PC would be faster at cracking the codes. “A virtual Colossus written to run on a Pentium 2 laptop takes about the same time to break a cipher as Colossus does” he said. The Cipher Challenge is also being used to mark the start of a major fund-raising drive for the fledgling National Museum of Computing. The Museum will be based at Bletchley and Colossus will form the centrepiece of its exhibits. The Museum said it needed to raise about £6m to safeguard the future of the historic computers it has collected.

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