The Bombe Machine: a dream experienced through the eyes of Alan Turing

October 2, 2017
By Nitya BRONZE, Rockville, Maryland
Nitya BRONZE, Rockville, Maryland
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

At first, all I saw was a blur. It was like a forceful whirlwind of vivid colors. Colors of a forest, pure gold, and a dazed sunset were revealed to my sunken eyes. I was sitting in the middle of this whirlwind with my feet and palms stuck to a pitch black surface. My face became rigid. I could only move my eyes. I could hear the deep rustling and see the swished, roughly painted tones, and yet I did not feel the slightest breeze wash upon my skin. I closed my eyes. Suddenly, the rough voice of the whirlwind decelerated to a light tapping on the floor. I opened my eyes and saw a magnificent contraption.


The machine had the outer format of a well-formed charcoal colored box. The box was horizontally sliced into three divisions with darkened amber wood planks. The colors glided to the machine in front of me. They shielded the magnificent device from my eyes and formed a thick cloud around the machine. The wind softened into a deep humming. The colored cloud thinned into a bright fog. I could see the machine slowly taking form. The darkened wood square was slowly being filled in with several sets of rotors. The rotors took the shape of perfect, symmetrical circles. Each section of wooden borders consisted on three rows and twelve columns of pitch-black circular rotors. I could not properly see the engraved text on each of the circles. The colored cloud spread out into a thin sheet of mixed colors with what seemed the texture of light cotton candy. The sheet wrapped around the machine, and dissolved into nothingness.

It was as if the machine had absorbed the colors. The atramentous circles were now painted with the luminous hues. The first three rows of the rotors were painted golden. The fourth row’s rotors were bright yellow. The fifth row’s rotors were dark green. The sixth and seventh rows’ rotors were crimson. The last two rows were filled with the tone of a ripened pumpkin. There were coarse, ruby wires that extended from the sides of the rows and trailed on towards the back of the apparatus. I stared in awe. I had heard stories of the famous “decoding machine.” The phrase stemmed from the Polish decoding machine used during World War I. The coding machine used an algorithmic strip of coding (zeroes and ones pattern), and with the machine, was used to decode basic encryptions. However, it could not do multi-step encoding. I had always dreamed of achieving the next step, and here it was, forming in front of my wondrous eyes.


Unexpectedly, my palms twitched. I gasped and looked down at my rough hands. All at once, my body felt loose and relaxed. I wasn’t chained to the ground anymore. I stood up and looked at the machine. My stomach churned as I walked closer to it. I could now see the glossed rotors clearly. The letters of the alphabet were lightly engraved as indicators around the edge of each rotor. I shifted my eyes to the bulky switches. I realized what this machine was for. There were plugboards attached to each other and a wire running across and looping through each rotor. This meant that the machine could encrypt multiple settings at a time. I looked around and realized there was no code to solve. The machine was useless at the moment. I lay on the floor to examine the bottom of the machine and saw a crinkled, thin piece of paper. I opened the paper and read the code DASXISTXEI. I arranged the letters on the front plugboard to match the code. After taking a deep breath, I turned the hulking switches.


The rotors turned in harmony and hummed a loud noise resembling that of a vacuum. My eyes followed the rotations of the perfectly symmetrical circles. Suddenly, the machine clicked. The rotations stopped and the switches began blinking. It worked. I felt my cheek muscles conforming to a far-reaching smile. I wrapped my fingers on a thick wire and traced it to the back of the dark framed automaton. The wires connected to a motor, which initiated a connection with about 25 plugboards scattered along the back of the rotors panel. An unknown phrase swiftly appeared to me. I gently placed my right palm onto the panel and whispered, “digital computer.”

The author's comments:

The Bombe Machine helped formulate the world we live in today regarding computerized information. I see the machine as not only a revolutionary advance in technology, but also as a refined, complex, and intricate design, where every single part of the machine has a separate but equally important function. I know that the development of the machine took a lot of time and wasn't a vision or dream, but the dream aspect of the work allows the reader to truly delve deep into the design and the simplified operational skills of the machine. 

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