April 10 Meeting

Our next WVARA meeting will be held in-person on Wednesday, April 10, in Meeting Room 3 at the Silicon Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, 2731 N. First Street at Plumeria Drive (southwest corner) in San Jose.  Social time begins around 6:45pm, with the meeting commencing at 7pm. If you haven’t been to the Red Cross in a while, “talk-in” is usually available on the Association’s repeaters. Best choice would be 2m/220.  

At this month’s meeting, Ralph Simpson will tell us about secret radio communications during WW2 and the cracking of Enigma.  WW1 had been the first war to use radio, which was an enormous advantage on the battlefield. But the weakness of existing ciphers meant every country now had their secret messages broken by the enemy! This vulnerability was the driving force for the invention of more advanced machine ciphers and was the beginning of crypto warfare. The Enigma machine was invented during this time and was the first cipher device to use electricity. So, radio was directly responsible for the resulting explosion of crypto warfare, which continues to this day.

The Nazis used the Enigma in WW2 and had the utmost confidence in the secrecy of their messages, despite evidence of enemy codebreaking. The story of Allied codebreaking during WW2 is a story of innovation, intrigue, and deception. The success of cracking the Enigma was kept secret for 41 years, until 1974, despite tens of thousands of people working on the effort in the UK and US. This secrecy is especially incredible for us living in the age of the internet, WikiLeaks, and Edward Snowden. Over 35,000 Enigma machines were manufactured, but only 400 exist today.

Ralph Simpson worked in the computer industry for 32 years, working for IBM and Cisco Systems. He started as a systems engineer for large mainframe computers and held a variety of technical and management roles. He retired as Senior Director for Service Strategy at Cisco Systems.  Ralph is now retired and volunteers at History San Jose and the Computer History Museum. He wrote a book on cipher history called, Crypto Wars: 2000 Years of Cipher Evolution. He is also an avid collector of cipher machines, which you can see on his website, CipherHistory.com

BTW, several of us meet nearbyfor dinner prior to the meeting at 5:30pm at Disn-N-Dash (2551 N. 1st St. San Jose):  https://dishdash.com . Feel free to join us.

Three things to remember:

• Since the west side entrance to the Red Cross Building is always locked, we recommend entering the Red Cross Building through the main entrance situated on the north side of the building.

• The Red Cross locks the main entrance at 7pm sharp, so please come early in order to get access to the building.  

• Since Meeting Room 3 is about 100 feet from any entrance, any late comers who knock on an outside door won’t be heard from our meeting room.  So please try to arrive early!  If you need help getting in the door, you can call my cellphone:  408-636-6172.

Jim, K6EI
WVARA Vice President