Net Gains: The Enigma of Bletchley Park

Click to follow
The Independent Culture bpark

If the current television series Station X about wartime codebreakers has whetted your appetite for the amazing story of Bletchley Park, read on. The country's greatest crossword buffs, mathematicians and code-crackers were employed to break Hitler's wartime communications codes and specifically, the supposedly secure Enigma machine. This website contains a huge array of details about Bletchley Park, including information on restoration work and an excellent description of how the Enigma machine worked (something that the TV programme skimped on). However, the best thing by far is the link to a pair of applets which simulate the Enigma machine, letting you encrypt and decrypt your own messages in exactly the same way as the German operators did. It seems odd to be using a powerful mainframe computer to simulate the action of a glorified typewriter, and might be a little easier to decode than some of the off-the-shelf computer encryption packages, but it's a fascinating insight into how cryptography has advanced in the last 50 years or so.

Also worth a look is, a site which is dedicated to Alan Turing, the so-called father of modern-day computers and the creator of the machines that the codebreakers of Bletchley Park used to crack the German Enigma machine.

Cyber-Valentine valentine.html

Unless you like taking huge and completely unnecessary risks with your love life, then Valentine's day may not be the best time to experiment with radical new ways to convey your romantic intentions. With Valentine emails; a minor technical problem could lead to all kinds of disastrous misunderstandings. However, if you're determined to trust in technology, then a useful first stop is Caryn's Valentine, which, although admittedly a rather saccharine affair, has a number of excellent ideas, including, for example, some links to classic romantic literature. It also offers a flower-delivery service, but as that part of the system's only based in America, you may find your red roses are a little withered by the time they arrive at your loved one's door. However, help is at hand in the shape of Interflora's website ( through which you can order flowers for nearly any country in the world. Although the interface isn't the most user-friendly in the world, it is all pretty straightforward. And just as importantly, the object of your affections need never know that a computer was involved at all.


Webzines are springing up at an incredible rate these days and as you'd expect, the quality varies tremendously. Mindjack is one of the really superior ones. It deals primarily with culture and technology and is excellently laid out, with software reviews, commentaries on the state of the computer industry. essays on the current state of the media and there's even extensive coverage of the Microsoft anti-trust trial. If you think you've got what it takes to write for Mindjack, there's an address for you to submit work along with a brief resume.