Saturday Matinee – The Password, Larkin Poe, Grace Slick & Ernie Andrews

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The Password [via].
Seen that scene many times, but it wasn’t until recently that I connected it to something I read years ago.

The Code Breakers” by David Kahn is a classic book on the history of cryptology. In Chapter 2 he described the simple alphabet letter-shift that every schoolboy knows, but then he double-encrypts the shift with a password. Kahn used SWORDFISH as an example.

Using a simple alphabet shift from A to B:
TACKYRACCOONS reads SZBIXQZBBNNMR. Lot of repeated letters, but if you add a key like SWORDFISH to the shift, you get LWQBVGIUJGKJ, and it’s tougher to crack. That’s kind of how the WWII German Enigma machine worked.


Leadbelly cover found here.

Grace Slick’s vocals (sans backup music) on White Rabbit creeps me right out [via]. “Remember what the door mouse said.” Oh shut up. Go feed your cats or something.

I need an aural palate cleanser after that one, so let’s roll with this:

Yeah, Ernie Andrews, one of the greatest big band soul singers of all time, and “Do I Worry” is one of my all-time favorites.

Have a great weekend or two, folks. We’ll keep the porch light on.

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10 Responses to “Saturday Matinee – The Password, Larkin Poe, Grace Slick & Ernie Andrews”

  1. Leonard Jones Says:

    About the book Code Breakers, I never read it but there is
    another great book on the subject called Double Cross: The
    True Story of the D-Day Spies. I strongly recommend it.
    It covered the efforts at Bletchley Park and Garbo, the
    man who ran an entire fictional spy ring in England. His
    major feat was warning the Nazis in advance of the Normandy
    invasion. When the SHTF on D-Day, the Nazi decrypters had
    finally taken the time to read his message.

    His next message was given the highest priority. Normandy
    is a diversion, the real invasion will come at Calais. Hitler’s
    greatest general (himself) ordered the troops and whole
    Panzer divisions to stay put. The rest was history.

    Once the code breakers worked out the Enigma Machine,
    the flow of disinformation became a flood. Now that they
    could read coded messages in real-time, the focus was on
    how to find alternate cover for troop movements, and the
    detection of U-Boats. The book goes into great detail.
    The movie the Information Game was almost as accurate
    as real events.

    The book can be read for free using the title as keywords.
    Happy reading, I could not put the book down until I read
    every last word!

  2. Bunk Strutts Says:

    Leonard–

    W.J Holmes’ “Double Edged Secrets” is another good ‘un, although some of the facts are not entirely accurate.

    “The Information Game” is a good movie, except that the subplot focuses on Alan Turing’s supposed homosexuality which had nothing at all to do with his accomplishments. I believe Turing was a functional autistic, but so what.

    Email me if you want a copy of Kahn’s The Code Breakers. I have an abridged paperback and two different hardcopy editions.

  3. wheels Says:

    I first read the Code Breakers in high school, but it was the abridged paperback version. A few years later, I found and bought the hardback. However, I never caught the ‘swordfish’ reference.

    You learn something new every day (if you’re doing it right).

  4. Bunk Strutts Says:

    Wheels–

    My dad had the paperback copy, I read that one then got a hardcover copy also.

    IIRC, SWORDFISH was related to the simple letter shift cypher, i.e., A=B, B=C, D=E … Pretty easy to suss out, but if you use a key like SWORDFISH it makes it double-encrypted. With that key, if the first letter is A, then the coded letter is S. If the first letter is B, then T. If C, then U.

    Then, if the 2nd letter is A, the coded letter is W. If B, then X, if C, then Y. D would be Z, and E would go back to A. F would be B.

    If you wanted to encrypt the word “swordfish” using SWORDFISH as a key, the result would read
    AAAAAAAAA.

    Okay, just checked the book. The system is described in Chapter 5 using TYPE as the key, but I don’t see SWORDFISH. That might have come with a coded message from Dad.

  5. wheels Says:

    Back in the days when my computer was an Apple II, some kid published an article (in Call-A.P.P.L.E, I think) describing how to encrypt using exclusive-OR operations. However, he’d encrypt each character using every character of the key in succession.

    I wrote a letter to the editor noting that the result was, effectively, encrypting with a single-character key, and that a poorly-chosen key – I think FRIENDLIER was my suggestion – cancelled itself out and produced the original character at the end.

    I got a nice letter from the editor of Cryptologia in response.

  6. Bunk Strutts Says:

    Wheels– Apple IIe was my intro to computing, unless you include punch tape and IBM cards.

  7. wheels Says:

    I built a binary counter (more of an encoder, actually) with soup cans, thread spools, paperclips, and masking tape. I think the instructions were from a book on building a working computer with those pieces.

    I also had a Digi-Comp I, and I think I still have the manual for it somewhere.

    My first actual experience with what most people would consider to be programming was in Fortran IV on a Burroughs 5500 in the mid-to-late 1960s, as part of the Computer merit badge for the Boy Scouts. At the Naval Academy, we all learned Dartmouth BASIC on DTSS, but I don’t remember the hardware it was running on. Something from GE, as I recall. I also used several Fortran variants on it, and had exposure to Focal on a PDP-11.

    My Apple was an original II that I bought second-hand from one of the guys at a Connecticut computer store. It was serial number A2S1-2174. I modified it over the years with trace cuts and little blue wires to have extra colors in hi-res mode and the ability to use lowercase.

  8. Bunk Strutts Says:

    Wheels– Dad had a Digi-Comp, but he bought it for himself. All I remember about it is that it counted up to 7 in binary. Learned Basic in 7th grade, wrote a simple baja road race program.

  9. wheels Says:

    It did more than count. I remember it having a NIM game, and things I’ve found online – there’s someone making reproductions, and someone else who posted plans on (IIRC) Thingiverse – it had an elevator simulation, bank lock simulations, “guess the number” game, and more.

  10. Bunk Strutts Says:

    Wheels– Yeah I knew it could do more, but in 1st Grade, I wasn’t interested. OTOH I learned to count up to 7 in binary while my teacher couldn’t.

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