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Author Topic:   Receiving an Enigma: interview with Jeremy Paxman
Snaggy
Moderator

Posts: 1399
From: Canada
Registered: Jan 2000

posted November 11, 2000 11:00     Click Here to See the Profile for Snaggy   Click Here to Email Snaggy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
enigma! On April 1, 2000 an Enigma cypher machine was stolen from the mansion at Bletchley Park, home of the British military intelligence staff during World War II.

On October 17, 2000 BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman received a parcel containing part of the stolen four-wheel cipher machine - (three of the rotor wheels were missing.)

Nitrozac and I did a Joy of Tech comic about it.

Now, being an Enigma fan, and knowing there are a lot of other geeky people in this world who would have loved to spend so much quality time with the Enigma, I asked Jeremy Paxman a few geeky questions about the experience. He was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to reply, so I present the interview here...

How heavy was the package?

It was a vast box, and didn't seem that heavy - I mean I could easily lift it and carry it - it was more awkward than anything else because it was so large.

If you can, describe opening the box. Was is packaged very well, taped up very securely? Did you get the impression that The Master cared for the machine at all, or was just getting the Enigma off his hands?

It was cardboard and entirely sealed with parcel tape. I'd guess it had been made watertight, and the bubblewrap and successive interior wrappings made it look as if whoever had the thing wanted to look after it.

I read in the BBC piece that it smelled of oil. Can you elaborate?

Old engine oil - the kind of smell oil doesn't have these days. Sorry I can't be more precise.

Upon realizing what the box contained, did you feel even the slightest sense of panic, ...that perhaps you might now become a suspect in the theft?

It did cross my mind it might have been a bomb.

Were you tempted to try to encode a message or two? Note: This was before news had arrived that the Enigma was missing three encryption rotors, without which the machine cannot function.

No. As I'm sure brilliant chaps like you know better than me, I'd have needed a mate with another machine to decrypt it.....

What were your personal impressions of the Enigma machine? Did you get any sense of pride of workmanship, or elegance in the design, or did it just seem like a functional device?

I confess I found it exhilarating

Did you have any other personal reactions or feelings about this machine?

I was thrilled, but I'm still baffled as to why I was sent the thing.

---------------

Thanks again to Jeremy Paxman for taking the time to do this interview!

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Undesirable Alien
Neat Newbie

Posts: 12
From: Scotland
Registered: Nov 2000

posted November 11, 2000 20:45     Click Here to See the Profile for Undesirable Alien   Click Here to Email Undesirable Alien     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An interview with Paxo! That's really quite impressive, how on Earth did you manage to swing that?

I wonder why the thieves sent the Enigma to him though? I can only imagine it was because they want to gain maximum publicity. If they had sent it to the police, it may have covered it up until they recovered the rotors as well. This way they publicly pressurise the museum to capitulate and stump up the cash.

The thing I really like about encryption & indeed technology generally before the advent of computers was that it seemed to have a 'soul'. Lots of wires & wheels & cogs and suchlike to play around with, unlike the sealed boxes you get today.I appreciate that you can mess around with PC's, but it's only up to a certain extent. It's like Lego pieces - you can configure the various bits & bobs together however you like, but you can't really get into the nitty gritty.

I just wish the British Government at the time of Babbage had seen the potential of his designs & commissioned hulking warehouse sized devices and networked them (via telegraph . It would've been fun.

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Zwilnik
unregistered
posted November 13, 2000 05:49           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"I just wish the British Government at the time of Babbage had seen the potential of his designs & commissioned hulking warehouse sized devices and networked them (via telegraph . It would've been fun. "

They did, and British Telecom are STILL using it for our internet access.

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supaboy
SuperBlabberMouth!

Posts: 1242
From: Columbia, SC, USA
Registered: Jan 2000

posted November 13, 2000 08:46     Click Here to See the Profile for supaboy   Click Here to Email supaboy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Snaggy: Way cool!

quote:
Originally posted by Undesirable Alien:
I just wish the British Government at the time of Babbage had seen the potential of his designs & commissioned hulking warehouse sized devices and networked them (via telegraph . It would've been fun.

Ever read The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson?

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Undesirable Alien
Neat Newbie

Posts: 12
From: Scotland
Registered: Nov 2000

posted November 13, 2000 09:08     Click Here to See the Profile for Undesirable Alien   Click Here to Email Undesirable Alien     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by supaboy:
Snaggy: Way cool!


Ever read The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson?



I have actually, & liked it. It is an interesting alternate history effort, & well worth the read, I thought.

It's funny to think just how disunited America was back then. I found out a while ago that Texas was independant till the 1840's (?). A lot of British diplomacy and skullduggery in the book was aimed at keeping America divided, and weak. Imagine if there were 50 different nations now, instead of one country. Hmm, getting a bit OT, so I'll stop

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Swiss Mercenary
BlabberMouth, the Next Generation.

Posts: 1461
From: All the way from the land of Chocolate, Cheese and Cuckoo Clocks.
Registered: Feb 2000

posted November 13, 2000 09:25     Click Here to See the Profile for Swiss Mercenary   Click Here to Email Swiss Mercenary     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Imagine if there were 50 different nations now, instead of one country. Hmm, getting a bit OT, so I'll stop
Well if you go and check out the Crimson Skies universe, you will have one idea of what it might have looked like. Also, the game is fun to play, stories fun to read and the computer game, dispite being a Micro$oft product is fun to play as well.

Congrats on the interview too Snaggy

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nekomatic
Assimilated

Posts: 375
From: Manchester, UK
Registered: Mar 2000

posted November 13, 2000 19:39     Click Here to See the Profile for nekomatic   Click Here to Email nekomatic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Zwilnik:
They did, and British Telecom are STILL using it for our internet access.

LOL!!

Have you ever visited a working Strowger telephone exchange by the way? Wacky!

T.

------------------
Don't Windows Me

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Iain F.
unregistered
posted November 13, 2000 20:26           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I suspect that Mr Paxman is limited in what he can say about the machine (especially its packing etc.) as the police are still chasing "The Master" and the other rotors. The police will no doubt wish to conceal exactly how much they may or may not know/suspect about "The Master".

By the way, congrats to Nitro & Snaggy on an excellent likeness of our hardest hitting political interviewer, I'm surprised that he is at all known in Canada.

Cryptography Geeks might like to know that BBC Radio 4 is currently serialising "The Codebook" (a brief history of ciphers and such) all this week (Nov 13- Nov 17)in their late book slot. If you are unable to recieve Radio 4 on air it is accessible via the net as a real audio stream. Go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/ and hit the "Listen" icon. "The Codebook" plays from about 00:30 GMT to about 00:50 GMT

Following this is the shipping forecast, a deeply cryptic little broadcast that you might like to try out your powers of analysis on.

Iain
Metals Geek,
Sheffield, UK

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Saintonge
SuperBlabberMouth!

Posts: 1113
From: Minneapolis, MN, USA
Registered: Feb 2000

posted November 13, 2000 20:40     Click Here to See the Profile for Saintonge   Click Here to Email Saintonge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Undesirable Alien:
It's funny to think just how disunited America was back then. I found out a while ago that Texas was independant till the 1840's (?). A lot of British diplomacy and skullduggery in the book was aimed at keeping America divided, and weak. Imagine if there were 50 different nations now, instead of one country. Hmm, getting a bit OT, so I'll stop

Yeah, Texas succeeded in its revolt against Mexico in 1836 (not often mentioned in the histories is the fact that much of Mexico was in revolt against the central govt. of the time; Texas was the farthest from the center, and that's why it won).

The new Texas Republic wanted to join the United States immediately, but the slavery issue was heating up then, and various people succeeded in preventing the admission of another slave state (pretty stupid, considering that there was already slavery in Texas).

In 1844, James K. Polk ran for President on a platform that included the annexation of Texas. He won, and Texas entered the Union on Dec. 29th, 1845. Mexico declared war over that, and when that was over, Polk had added more territory to the U.S. than any President before or since.

------------------
Saintonge

"She just left me. *sniff* She didn't even care enough to cut me head off or set me on fire. *sniff*"

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Oldguy geek
Alpha Geek

Posts: 306
From: Blacksburg, Va., USA
Registered: Nov 2000

posted November 14, 2000 08:19     Click Here to See the Profile for Oldguy geek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ah yes, BBC Radio 4. I listened to it regularly on longwave when I lived in Paris. Book at Bedtime and the shipping forcast lulled me to sleep on many nights.

Anyone who is able to decipher the true meaning of the shipping forcast should immediately set to work on decrypting The Archers.

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Tau Zero
BlabberMouth, the Next Generation.

Posts: 1685
From:
Registered: Jan 2000

posted November 14, 2000 09:58     Click Here to See the Profile for Tau Zero     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Saintonge:
The new Texas Republic wanted to join the United States immediately, but the slavery issue was heating up then, and various people succeeded in preventing the admission of another slave state (pretty stupid, considering that there was already slavery in Texas).
<drift>
Not stupid at all, if you consider that the goal was to maintain a balance in the Senate, for which purpose states had been admitted in slave/free pairs for some time.
</drift>

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Iain F
unregistered
posted November 17, 2000 19:54           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Snaggy:
On April 1, 2000 an Enigma cypher machine was stolen from the mansion at Bletchley Park, home of the British military intelligence staff during World War II.

Enigma latest:-

In the last hour or so it has been announced that police investigating the stolen enigma, "the Master" and the still missing rotors have arrested a 57 year old man. This person is now "helping police with their enquiries".

Apparently this person was arrested near his car in the county of Derbyshire (where he lives and only a little south of myself). It is reported that negotiations for the return of the missing rotors were in progress at the time of the arrest.

The Enigma (one of only 3 left in the world) was stolen from Bletchley Park during an open day. Since then a series of bizarre and cryptic ransom demands have been made for the machine by a person calling him(?)self "The Master" (cf. the No.1 villain in the BBC science fiction series "Dr. Who"). This person claims that he bought the enigma machine in good faith from an unknown person and would return it if he was paid the 20,000 pounds (or so) that he had paid for it (the amount seemed to vary from 20K to 25K). Since the return of the main machine the ransom has been demanded for the return of the other rotors.

Police have stated that they do not anticipate making any further arrests (implying that they think that they have "The Master" and that they suspect he is the original thief rather than the "innocent" buyer of the stolen machine). The remaining three rotors are still missing.

Iain F
Metals Geek

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Swiss Mercenary
BlabberMouth, the Next Generation.

Posts: 1461
From: All the way from the land of Chocolate, Cheese and Cuckoo Clocks.
Registered: Feb 2000

posted November 20, 2000 08:23     Click Here to See the Profile for Swiss Mercenary   Click Here to Email Swiss Mercenary     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is more information from the Electronic Telegraph, you can follow the links to connected stories as well.

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