Located at the edge of Fort Meade, Maryland, in an old, nondescript motel, is the National Cryptologic Museum. Admission is free, and with that admission you can explore how the worlds of communications, mathematics, and security intersect in cryptology.
Hebern Electric Code machine, built around 1918, was one of the first U.S. developed modern coding devices, with one rotor and nicely detailed brass segments. Like the Apple, it was Made in California, USA.
The M-9 Bombe Checking Machine was a US device built in large numbers to perform brute force attacks on German codes during World War II. Several machines were fed the same code to find the proper rotor settings, and once found, the code could be translated.
This Enigma machine and many variants was used by German forces throughout World War II. This particular device can be used by visitors to create their own secret messages.
The German SZ42 Schlüsselzusatz, or cipher attachment, was developed by the Germans in 1942 for use by the German Army. The British nicknamed it “Tunny,” after a type of tuna. This seemingly random name was due to the requirement to call all German encrypted traffic “fish,” as a security measure.
This Connection Machine CM-5 was built by the Thinking Machines Corp. It was used by NSA from 1991 to 1997, and was called “Frostburg,” after a college town in western Maryland. The many blinking lights are decorative.
This Soviet made IMZ-Ural motorcycle is a Soviet copy of a German BMW R-71 motorcycle from 1941. It was captured from the North Vietnamese Army by the U.S. during the Vietnam War, and has not a thing to do with cryptanalysis.
Outside the National Cryptologic Museum gift store is this replica of the Rosetta Stone. Created around 196 BC, it displays a decree from an Egyptian king, written in Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script and ancient Greek. Discovered by a French soldier during France’s invasion of Egypt in 1799, it provided the key to unlocking Egyptian hieroglyphs, much as modern code breakers look for keys in breaking coded texts. The real Rosetta Stone is on display at the British Museum in London.
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is a lovely small town surrounded by farms. The area is awash in green, rolling hills, and is almost stereotypically serene and peaceful.
This was not the case during July 1-3, when two massive armies collided in and around the town in the costliest battle in U.S. history. The Confederate retreat on July 4, combined with the surrender of Vicksburg to Major General Ulysses S. Grant on the same day, effectively doomed the Confederacy.
Founded as a town in Virginia, Harpers Ferry endured fluctuating economic conditions, Civil War, and floods that carried away the apostrophe in the town’s name but still left a spectacular natural and man-made landscape.