- Series: A Crytographic Series
- Publisher: Aegean Park Pr (August 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0894122908
- ISBN-13: 978-0894122903
- Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.8 x 11 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,067,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Big Machines (A Crytographic Series)
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As the author shows, each of these machines had the potential to be unbreakable with the resources available to cryptologists at that time. But those who implemented the German and Japanese systems and set and checked their operating procedures left holes that codebreakers could drive solutions through, and did. In the U.S., however, some of the world's best cryptanalysts were given the freedom not only to design the SIGABA machine but to develop and control all the details of its use. As a result it was never broken even though it was very widely used for almost two decades and generated vast amounts of ciphertext.
I was particularly interested in the description of how the U.S. Army and Navy cryptologists devised SIGABA and broke PURPLE. They were less colorful and romantic than many of their British counterparts -- civil servants and military officers who worked in the shadows -- but they were giants. Some authors have slighted their accomplishments on the grounds that the PURPLE system was not very strong and the German and Japanese cryptologists given the task of breaking SIGABA were not as good as the Poles and British who broke Enigma. But Kelley shows how great the challenges of PURPLE truly were, and how really unbreakable SIGABA was. While PURPLE was less strong than Enigma in some respects, the playing field was leveled because the Poles and British had a lot inside knowledge about Enigma that was totally denied to the Americans attacking PURPLE. PURPLE was a pure cryptanalytical solution with no prior knowledge of the machine's mechanism -- the first of its kind and an amazing feat. Nor did it really matter how good or bad the Axis cryptologists were -- the way the U.S. used SIGABA, it was never going to be broken.
The book's writing is lively and clear and its illustrations, although sparse, are well chosen. It is fairly expensive, not at all grandly produced, and relatively brief. But if you really want to know how World War cipher systems worked and didn't, you cannot pass this book up.