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During World War II, British brainiacs helped save their country and defeat the Nazis. Recently, the equipment they used has been rebuilt and the surviving members got together for a reunion.

The rebuild project appears to be a maker’s delight: code, electronics, old-school manufacturing, and rapid prototyping all wrapped up in a world-changing quest to win the war.

The Bombe was the brainchild of Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman, and the 210 machines manufactured by the British Tabulator Machine Company did vital work cracking encoded German military traffic – a feat which shortened the war by two years, Bletchley Park suggests.

The original devices were destroyed after the war on security grounds, but in 1970 a set of blueprints turned up at Bletchley and the idea to reconstruct a Bombe was born. The rebuild team, led by volunteer John Harper, has finally succeeded in putting the beast together:

Nice of them to recover that lost knowledge. Were you involved in the rebuild of the Turing Bombe? Let us know about the experience in the comments.

Check out MAKE, Volume 17: The Lost Knowledge issue!
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Chris Connors

Making things is the best way to learn about our world.


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