1995-01-02 - Book review: Codebreakers, the Inside Story of Bletchley Park

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From: gnu
To: cypherpunks@toad.com, gnu
Message Hash: 800eaf6126a857ccb13027a4fd456a72b845e2c56a1a3c282589ab9e879c8e7a
Message ID: <9501020255.AA13843@toad.com>
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UTC Datetime: 1995-01-02 02:55:23 UTC
Raw Date: Sun, 1 Jan 95 18:55:23 PST

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From: gnu
Date: Sun, 1 Jan 95 18:55:23 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com, gnu
Subject: Book review: Codebreakers, the Inside Story of Bletchley Park
Message-ID: <9501020255.AA13843@toad.com>
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This is NOT David Kahn's excellent book "The Codebreakers".  This is a
British volume full of personal stories of thirty people who worked at
Bletchley Park or at British code-breaking in the field during WW2.
I found it a very touching and personal book.  Each person tells their
own story in a five- or six-page essay, and the stories cover a whole
range of activities, from cryptanalytical work to typing-and-filing
to the people who constructed and maintained the physical buildings.

As the introduction says, "...few of the events described here were
chronicled at the time, and those who worked at Bletchley and its
outstations were forbidden to talk or write about it -- almost to
remember it.  The compiling of this book has rested almost entirely on
personal memories; and that is unusual in an account which pretends to
any sort of accuracy.  Moreover, nobody who worked at Bletchley can
now be under 65; several contributors are in their mid-80s.  For all
of us clear and accurate recollection of highly specialized Top Secret
facts across fifty years has been a demanding task, requiring much

There are lots of details about how real live wartime code-breaking
worked fifty years ago -- details I have seen nowhere else.  I
recommend this book to any cypherpunk.

Codebreakers: the inside story of Bletchley Park.  ed. by Francis
Harry Hinsley and Alan Stripp.  Oxford, England: Oxford University
Press, 1994 (hardback issued in 1993).  ISBN 0-19-285304-X.  US$13.95,
at my local bookstore.

John Gilmore                gnu@toad.com  --  gnu@cygnus.com  --  gnu@eff.org
 A well-regulated intelligentsia, being necessary to the security of a free
 State, the right of the people to keep and bear books, shall not be infringed.