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The National Cryptologic Museum 133

Posted by samzenpus
from the look-at-all-the-secrets dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The NSA's once small National Cryptologic Museum is bigger and better, with new more immersive exhibits like a reconstruction of a listening post from the Vietnam war. The place seems to be caught between the urge to keep your mouth shut and the pleasure of telling war stories. In time, though, the story notes that the need to tell stories wins out. Has anyone visited lately?"
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The National Cryptologic Museum

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2008 @12:06AM (#22735902)
    But they required a password to get in and I didn't have time to crack it.
    • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @12:46AM (#22736130) Journal
      "friend"
    • by morcheeba (260908) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @12:57AM (#22736184) Journal
      There's more truth to that then you'd imagine. It used to be that the NSA wasn't connected to any major roads... you'd have to take the BW parkway and then, at a random unmarked point in the road, turn off the pavement and onto a dirt path through the forest.
      • by sporkme (983186) * on Thursday March 13, 2008 @03:31AM (#22736722) Homepage
        Not doubting, but [citation needed]. Seems to me that a heavily traveled dirt road would attract both public attention and maintenance impossibilities. A surface search on Google is not coughing up the goods, so got any write-ups on this? I'm not a conspiracy wonk, but I really dig the real deal.
        • by FredThompson (183335) <fredthompson AT mindspring DOT com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:29AM (#22737458)
          I highly doubt this story. I've worked there. The buildings are massive and it's hidden...on the ground of Fort Meade close enough to hit with a golf ball from the Parkway. The exit signs and "yard sign" that say "National Security Agency" weren't always there but a dirt road onto which people exited from the parkway!?!?! No. That's crazy. Unmarked entrances to various remote listening posts, that's possible, but even then, you'd run into security. Even when Bamford wrote The Puzzle Palace, it wasn't that much of a secret. I have no idea how many people work in the main 2 buildings but you can't be in Columbia for too long without running into people who are obviously math geeks. Add in their families and support contractors (somebody has to order paper, pencils, empty the trash, etc.) and it's impossible to hide.

          Methinks anyone who would believe the hidden dirt road idea doesn't know what the average NSA employee is like. The CIA has a joke: "An optimist at the NSA is someone who looks at YOUR shoes when they walk by." I've literally had NSA employees jump in surprise when I said hello to them. Most of the time, if you look them in the eye they look away. It's a weird place. A lot of the people made we wonder how Garanamils missed such a huge marketing opportunity.

          I'm going to visit the museum in a week, actually. Never went there when I had the clearances but it should be fun. I live in Charlotte now, home of one of the Projector twins. IIRC, there was a post about part of it being solved a couple of years ago. Wasn't there a mistake in it? Something like that.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by hey! (33014)
            Before government got really, really big. Too big to hide a major agency.

            There used to be a kind of convention in Washington where if you said you worked for "The State Department" it was understood you meant the CIA. Normally people who worked for State would say something like "I work in the office of the Undersecretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs," which would be totally comprehensible to anybody on the DC cocktail circuit. People who worked for the NSA said they worked f
          • Now we will have to kill you.
          • The Dirt road refered to is US Route 32, and in the 50s was a private, unmarked dirt and later paved military road. Untill the Puzzle Palace was released no one knew where the place was. Afterwords they put up signs.
            • Really? There must have been far less traffic in the 50s. I've got some home movies from the WWII era showing how "empty" D.C. was compared to today. It's strange to see what are essentially grass fields around the monuments and I don't mean the Mall. Fifty years ago, hmm, interesting. Makes sense, though. No satellites or flyover to worry about.
          • I lived the Washington, D. C. area forty to fifty years ago. At one time the CIA was located in an old beer brewery building downtown. Later they moved out of town and while I can't remember the name of the road, the entrance was in fact marked as a maintenance road. "Everybody" knew what the road really was. Years later there were newspaper articles about it and how the location was selected so no one had a clear view of any windows. In those days much was "security by obscurity".
          • by tauri (90654)
            >>The CIA has a joke: "An optimist at the NSA is someone who looks at YOUR shoes when they walk by."

            I think you mean "extrovert" instead of "optimist"....
            • Oops, yes, "extrovert" was the word I wanted to use. Optimist is different. Well, there aren't a lot of those at NSA, either...

              I just remembered something really funny. M$ sent some people to NSA who were all excited that Windows 2000 was finally going to be "secure." That briefing didn't last long. IIRC, there was a coment about some kind of checksum that was weak then the Easter Egg comments and it was all over for M$. We had Windows on the insecure net and Sun on the secure net, not including whatever in
          • > I've literally had NSA employees jump in surprise when I said hello to them. Most of the time, if you look them in the eye they look away. It's a weird place.

            And this distinguishes itself from New York City exactly how?

        • by morcheeba (260908)
          Yeah, I agree. I need to provide citation. I'm not sure where I heard the story; I've been to the museum & I think I may have seen it there. I've also worked with lots of spooks, too, and lived in the area... I could have picked up the info anywhere.

          I presume that when the building started, the area around it wasn't as developed and the parking lots were smaller. They have their own paved exit now, so I presume that's where the hidden road used to be.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by moondawg14 (1058442)
        Really, a random spot on the road? So at any given time (assuming proper algorithm seeding, of course!) you would have no idea where that dirt road may empty onto the parkway? Now THAT, my friends, is an accomplishment.

      • Not true. Back in the day you could drive right up to the buildings, if you were dropping off or picking up an employee for example. Now, let's just say security is a bit tighter.
      • by dwye (1127395)
        > you'd have to take the BW parkway

        Do you mean the George Washington Parkway? If so, your comment is almost redundant. I once described the directions to get there from National as "after the first sign, if you see a sign to anywhere, don't go that way."

        They also have almost no signs on the road. It seems that if you don't know your way on it, you might as well get lost, as far as its controlling agency cares. That, or it is an on-ramp to The Road from Roger Zelazny's Roadmarks.
      • by metamatic (202216)
        Dirt road? Not even close.

        NSA has its own clearly signposted parkway exit [aaroads.com].

        Also, you can look at the NSA HQ on Google Earth or Google Maps. It's at 39 06'35.48"N 76 46'11.44"W [google.com].

        No dirt roads anywhere.
  • It's a cool place. (Score:5, Informative)

    by mongoose(!no) (719125) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @12:10AM (#22735938)
    I was there about a year ago, it's just outside of DC, near my university. Lots of neat stuff, the older stuff is better labeled, but the newer stuff (1980's) is neat to look at, but the NSA doesn't really want to tell you what it does or what it's used for, it's just kind of sitting there because someone doesn't want to throw it out. They've got a giant 2 story data tape library that's set up to randomly swap tapes around, it's pretty cool to look at. I might have to take another trip up there some time. Also, don't forget to get the kid's NSA coloring book they hand out.
    • by jd (1658)
      the older stuff is better labeled, but the newer stuff (1980's) is neat to look at, but the NSA doesn't really want to tell you what it does or what it's used for

      That's cos the labels won't be declassified for another 30 years.

      I might have to take another trip up there some time.

      I don't think the NSA wants visitors picking the mushrooms.

      Also, don't forget to get the kid's NSA coloring book they hand out.

      Let me guess. The instructions are ROT13'ed and concealed in the image data. Outlines are drawn

    • by Erwos (553607)
      I don't normally whore out my blog, but here we go with a post about my own trip there:

      http://david.zakar.com/blog/?p=118 [zakar.com]

      Relevant section:

      "This leads into my two biggest complaints about the museum:

      * There is basically no substantial coverage of post-Korean War crypto.
      * There is absolutely no coverage of civilian advancements and events."

      I'm glad that they fixed the former, but did they finally give civilian advancements their due?
      • by plover (150551) *
        I doubt they're likely to cover civilian advancements in cryptography any time soon.

        First, the museum typically trails history by about 50 years -- the time period for automated declassification of all but the most sensitive secrets (i.e. news of cracking the German's Enigma isn't going to affect the current war.) But serious civilian work in cryptography didn't really begin to take place until 1972 with IBM's invention of Lucifer / DES. Prior to that, civilian cryptography, if it was ever considered by

        • by Erwos (553607)
          "The other reason is: civilian cryptography is NOT the NSA's story. "

          If that's actually the reason it's not in there, they need to rename the place "The NSA Museum". The current name, however, is "The National Cryptologic Museum", and they should be covering all things cryptological - including the civilian side of things. It's not the technology that matters so much as the applications and the legal issues. Even just covering the issues PGP had with foreign export laws would have been enlightening.

          But, eve
          • by plover (150551) *
            That's a really good point. However, for now anyway it really is the NSA museum more than anything else. As I recall, the only cryptologic displays they have that are not NSA related are government-related cryptography projects that existed prior to the creation of the NSA.

            But yeah, it'd be neat if they had a big-screen graphical DES engine, or the stories of Lucifer/DES/FIPS-49, RSA, AES, etc.

            But until your "folks in charge" change something, it's likely to remain the "National Cryptologic Museum" i

      • by dwye (1127395)
        Maybe they don't cover the civilian "advancements" in the field because they consider them reinventing the wheel. Granted, it is a wheel that only they and British Intelligence (OK, and probably the KGB, whatever its new initials are, too) know about, but they probably consider it old news.

        I once talked to someone who repaired an electron microscope that they used, presumably to test chips before they go into the ceramic casing, and he said that everything that he saw was at least ten years ahead of the c

    • by jddj (1085169)
      We went during after-Christmas week in late 2006. For a geek, it's seriously cool. Highlight for me: typing on a real Enigma machine.

      Make sure you get a dosant for your tour - they add a lot of context!
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)
      Can someone tell me if I can get there without a car? Last time I was in the DC area and had access to a car they decided to close because of the state funeral for Ford. Thanks guys. The little spyplane memorials were pretty neat.

      Now I might be back soon to DC but really cant justify 100 dollars to rent a car to go there. I wonder if a cab will take me and take me back. Its a little out of the way.
    • I have a few. Rosenberg notebooks, enigma machine, Supercomputers.

      Hi Steve!
    • If you get a chance to visit the National Cryptologic Museum, give the Historical Electronics Museum [hem-usa.org] a visit. It is closer to the Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) airport and about 15 - 20 minutes from the NCM. If the NCM is a 10 on a 1 to 10 GEEK scale then the HEM is a 9.
  • by ktulus cry (607800) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @12:15AM (#22735972)
    My brother was down at Fort Meade working for *cough cough cough* last summer, so when we went down to visit we got a tour of the museum. Really cool stuff down there, it's worth a few hours of your day if you're in the area.

    With the stuff they tell you there now, about the 60s and 70s, it's almost unfathomable what they DON'T tell us about what's going on now.
    • by zerocool^ (112121)
      My brother was down at Fort Meade working for *cough cough cough*

      My dad referred to it as "No Such Agency".
  • Been there (Score:5, Funny)

    by FooGoo (98336) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @12:25AM (#22736022)
    I was there a few years ago and it was worth the trip just to see all the gizmos and read the guestbook. A word of advice...never take a girl there for a date.
    • by glavenoid (636808)
      A word of advice...never take a girl there for a date.

      Why not?

      • by digitig (1056110)
        Because the security guards are really hot?
        • Uh...no. CIA has the hot girls. Most of them are interrogators or field types. NSA is almost all math geeks and career government workers (I use that word loosely.) How many hot math geeks have you ever seen? How many hot girls want to sit in closed rooms all day long surrounded by math geeks. NSA is mainly older civil service slugs and active duty military GUYS. Think about it, if you're a hot military chick, do you want to be around the math geeks or the power? If they're at NSA and they're not, they're v
          • by digitig (1056110)

            active duty military GUYS.
            Who your date won't notice at all, because she only has eyes for you. Aww, sweet.
    • by kbob88 (951258)

      never take a girl there for a date

      No worry there, this being /.

      And being /., I realize that the parent post is completely fictional or hypothetical, regarding dates. But still, what exactly made the parent think that this would be a good idea?
    • by langelgjm (860756) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:11AM (#22736226) Journal
      You laugh, but I actually did take a girl on a date there. She was a physics major, FWIW... and it wasn't totally disastrous. Though I do think I enjoyed the visit more than she did. I liked the big bomba [wikipedia.org] machine in particular.
    • by jacquems (610184)

      The last time I visited was about 10 years ago when I lived in Maryland. I didn't know that much about crypto at the time, but I still found the museum fascinating. I especially liked the fingerprint matching software exhibit, complete with a sign for paranoid nuts like me that emphasizes that the computer does not store any of the fingerprints from the reader. I was already planning a visit this summer, and knowing that there are definitely new exhibits gives me all the more reason to go!

      A word of advice...never take a girl there for a date.

      What if she invi

    • I visited there a few years ago. I could not help but notice that most of the museum visitors were young men in crew cuts (albeit in civilian clothes) and they were ALL talking in whispers.

      Actually, if you can get a group tour, it is well worth it. There was one going on at the time and the guide had all kinds of stories and anecdotes to tell.
      • by hubie (108345)
        The last time I was there I had to try to squeeze through the door blocked by a bunch of elementary school kids.
  • was a museum dedicated to bigfoot and the lock ness monster since I thought it read cryptobiologic museum.
    • by Analise (782932) *
      From what I understand, you wouldn't be the first. They also have people wanting to know where the crypts are, every now and again.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @12:43AM (#22736112) Homepage Journal
    "Welcome to L4XD739LNZ8367. Please decrypt the gender signs properly before selecting a restroom."
    • by patio11 (857072)
      I can brute force the whole plaintext space in, like, 5 seconds. Unless they start creating an arbitrary number of wrong doors leading to distintegration chambers.
  • Those who could say yes have, shall we say, gone on a long vacation.
  • Worth the trip (Score:5, Informative)

    by ayden (126539) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @12:50AM (#22736160) Homepage Journal
    I went to the NSA Cryptologic Museum back in 2002 while I was reading Cryptonomicon. Not only did they have Enigma machines, one exhibit had an Enigma out in the open that anyone could experiment with. The exhibits I was most impressed with were the Japanese encryption machines, Jade and Purple. These machines are quite rare and even the machines in these exhibits were incomplete.

    SIGSALY was also interesting - I didn't know that voice encryption was possible during WWII.

    I also found it amusing that they had a Connection Machines CM5. Sure, the CM 5's blinkin' lights are cool! But it was personally funny to me because my future brother-in-law used to work for Connection Machines and had a hand in their design and consturction. After I got home, I said to him, "Hey Sam, I saw some of your handy work in the NSA's museum".

    The volunteers working at the museum were all retired NSA or military intelligence. These guys actually worked with some of the equipment on display and could expertly explain technical details.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by langelgjm (860756)
      Indeed, when I visited, we had a nice older gentleman explain in detail to us regarding the Engima machine on display. I also remember reading displays about a famed NSA member who knew something like 40 languages, and could go home and over the weekend learn enough of the basics of another language to decrypt messages in it.
      • by bkr1_2k (237627)
        It's actually pretty simple to "learn" a language if you understand the basic grammar patterns of a language. That's actually how the military tests people for their language school. The test creates a language a few rules at a time and then asks questions based on those rules. It's an interesting thing to learn a completely fictitious language in 2 hours, but I enjoyed it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Mox-Dragon (87528)

          It's actually pretty simple to "learn" a language if you understand the basic grammar patterns of a language.

          No, it's not. It's fairly easy to learn a small set of grammatical rules that are similar to your native language, or a set of incredibly simple grammatical rules.

          Give anybody a massaged data set from a concatenative language and they'll figure out the morphology pretty quick - but be absolutely unable to manipulate it in any meaningful or naturalistic way until they have hundreds of hours of exper

          • by bkr1_2k (237627)
            You're talking about the difference of understanding at particular level of fluency for everyday conversation, while I was responding to the fact that a particular person could "learn" a language in a weekend well enough to "decode" it. There's a big difference between those two levels of understanding. Especially when "decoding" doesn't happen in real time and references can be used to fill in the missing pieces of understanding.

            You are, of course, right about your assertion that you can't truly "learn"
    • by tkohler (806572)
      It is definitely worth a visit. I visited with my dad, who is a code history nut, back in 1999. We didn't plan to go but saw the brown historical site roadsign on the way from DC to Baltimore and made an impromptu visit. On the wall, there was a framed review saying how the museum was a great visit but was not well advertised. The NSA spokesman quoted in the article said, "Well, the NSA is not big on publicity"
  • by B5_geek (638928) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:19AM (#22736260)
    It is located here:
      39 7'2.78"N x 7646'7.85"W

    Or as a link: http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=39.118071,-76.76737&z=16&t=h&hl=en [google.com]

  • Crypto museums (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:28AM (#22736288) Homepage

    It's a neat little museum. Everything there is familiar to people in the field, but it's nice to see the actual hardware.

    I would have liked to see hardware from the NSA/IBM foray into cryogenic computing. NSA funded a long effort from 1960 or so to build a 1GHz computer, decades before anybody else. ("I want a thousand megacycle machine! I'll get you the money" - NSA director) IBM developed components that ran in liquid nitrogen. Apparently some special purpose hardware was built using this technology, but not a full-scale computer. The components were too big (each gate required a tiny coil) and ICs won out.

    SIGSALY is a reminder of just how hard it was to do anything with WWII electronics. SIGSALY is straightforward; it's a speech encoder and digitizer fed through a one-time key system. The keys were stored on phonograph records, made in pairs and shipped in advance. This was VoIP, version 0.000001. The system thing took 40 racks at each end, and a staff of fifteen at each site to keep it running. The record turntables had to be mechanically synched; there was at that time no memory device suitable for storing even a modest portion of the of key so that the thing could be synchronized electronically. There was no clock sent on the data channel; synchronization was entirely manual. Unclear why they did it that way. The display at NSA is a mockup.

    Bletchley Park in the UK is also worth a visit. Go on a weekend when the volunteers show up; the weekday guides don't know much about the technology.

    • by Animats (122034) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:39AM (#22736550) Homepage

      I did some Google searches, hoping to find some historical info on NSA's cryogenic computing efforts, and found this [nitrd.gov], a 2005 plan out of NSA to build a 50-100GHz computer by 2010.

      They want faster CPUs, not more CPUs. The commercial world isn't even trying any more. After reading this paper, one can see why. By throwing a few hundred million, and liquid helium, at the problem, they might get a 20x performance gain over commercial microprocessors. The CPU has to run at 4 degrees Kelvin, liquid helium temperature. And it has to be kept at 4K while dissipating about a kilowatt.

      The technology is totally nonstandard. The basic components are Rapid Single Flux Quantum devices running at 4K. The logic voltage power voltage is 3-5 mV. Signals are around 200 microvolts. This stuff requires custom semiconductor fabs to make.

      Getting data out of the low-temperature zone is a very tough problem, and optical interconnects have to be used. The proposed memory bandwidth is huge: "For example, a particular architecture may require half a million data streams at 50 Gbps each between the superconducting processors and room-temperature SRAM." Developing devices to drive the output data links from the low temperature zone, without causing too much heating in the cold part of the system, is a big part of the problem.

      The justification for all this is in Appendix E, and sounds totally bogus. Either there's some desperate need for this technology they don't mention, or it's a boondoggle. There must be something important for which parallelism won't work. It's surprising to see this from NSA, because most signal analysis and crypto problems parallelize well.

      • by thechao (466986)
        I'm sorry. 100Ghz? You ever hear of speed limits? There's an important one, and 100Ghz kind of fucks you. Unless your processor is 486-like in quality. Even then... I'm skeptical. 100Ghz gives you only millimeters of traversal time.
        • by Animats (122034)

          100Ghz gives you only millimeters of traversal time.

          That's right. The proposed CPUs are 2mm across.

    • Went there a few years ago, before they built the Colossus reconstruction. They were having a military collectors' flea market at the same time. Take the guided tour. There's an Enigma you can try out, and a ham radio club (GB2BP?). It's also fun just walking around the grounds. Just a 1/4 mile walk from the Bletchley railroad station on the Milton Keynes train out of London (sorry, forget which London station you leave from).

      Mom worked at Nebraska Avenue during the war, so I'm really getting a kick ou
  • Dude. They'll never figure out my secret agent decoder ring.
  • "National Cryptologic Museum -- NSA"
    "National Museum of Cryptology"... There you go NSA, fixed that for you.

    Sounds much better, doesn't it?
  • by F00F (252082) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:33AM (#22736516)
    I had heard that the museum was "small but pretty interesting". That ended up definitely being an under-sell.

    The Computer History Museum in Mountain View is cool and all, but the Cryptologic Museum struck me on an entirely different level. Instead of the "Here is how computing evolved" theme of the Mountain View museum, I really felt like this was the "Here is why computation is relevant to communications (and warfare)" counterpart. They display voice and data encryption tools of the last five decades, from STE's and STU-III's back to (as other posters mentioned) the mechanically-synchronized SIGSALY machine that used giant turning vinyl records to encrypt the traffic. There is a handset you can pick up to hear pre-recorded messages representing the voice quality of each system. The oldest were barely intelligible, the newest are (obviously) crystal clear.

    The Cray XMP and YMP are impressive, and are in almost flawless condition! Rather than the exhibit at Mountain View, it felt like these machines were just recently taken out of service, and could easily be made operational again. They didn't seem like they'd been cobbled back together or had sat in closets neglected and falling apart for years. The density of some of the components on the Thinking Machines CM-5 memory and processor slices is impressive, and the descriptions of the power and cooling apparatus required (think many kilowatts and lots of Fluorinert) were equally amazing -- truly a testament to what can be done when money isn't much of an object, and a machine's value is measured solely in MIPS or MFLOPS.

    There is a three-foot-tall full-relief wooden replica of the Great Seal of the U.S. on the wall, which apparently was a gift from Russian schoolchildren to the U.S. embassador in Moscow. After hanging prominently on the wall for years in the embassador's office in Moscow, in 1952 it was discovered that it contained a resonant cavity eavesdropping bug on the inside that was very difficult to detect with sensing equipment of the time, unless it was activated by radio signal (presumably by Soviet spies) from the outside. I met there three (very proud) tourists of Russian descent who chuckled heartily at that one (and who tried to teach me how to say "Medvedev" properly, thanks!)

    As everyone else mentioned, the working Enigma machine was fun to encipher a message to a friend with (they have a pad and pencil for you to use), and the displays on the history of the agency and of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts were well put together. The GRAB II and Poppy ELINT satellites were especially interesting to me, and reminded me of the kind of things a senior class at the USAF Academy might build for a project these days (relics of an era when launch considerations and electronics density actually drove simplicity into designs).

    If you're an electronics/history/information assurance/security/aerospace/DC trivia fan, you'll almost certainly enjoy the trip, even if the facility is kind of small and out of the way. While you're in the area, go see the Udvar-Hazy center, too! And don't forget to tip your docents...
  • Definitely worth the trip, as others are saying.

    One thing I wondered about when I was there: SIGABA/ECM [nsa.gov] was touted by our tour guide as something which still hasn't been broken, even with modern computers. This seemed unlikely to me, especially after realizing how easily Enigma can be bruteforced (given any known plaintext) -- but then I read about Solitaire/Pontifex [schneier.com] in Cryptonomicon, and it makes me wonder...
  • Pictures (Score:3, Informative)

    by Raul654 (453029) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @05:02AM (#22737014) Homepage
    I was there in December. As is my hobby, I took pictures of basically everything in the museum, and then put them on Wikipedia. See the gallery here [wikipedia.org].
  • by kaiser423 (828989)
    Was there yesterday.

    Really neat setup. Easily spent over two hours browsing around this small museum. Mostly on reading about the war stories. They just had a lot of neat stuff.

    You could actually encode and decode your own messages with actual ENIGMA machines. They had the actual bombe's that broke it, and tons of other stuff. The people there are also extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and nice. Even if you're just one person, they'll give you a whole tour and answer whatever questions you have.
  • ... that in spite of my interest in cryptology, most of my "knowledge" regarding the NSA stems from Dan Brown. Whose Hollywood-style description of how computers work was pretty painful.
  • . . . the guide hollers "Red Badge!" before you enter every room.

    (Sorry - inside joke.)

    • by jsalbre (663115)
      I miss they spinny red lights on the ceiling. That and the crazy old man that worked the short order grill on mid-shift! He made some killer pancakes.

      But what really tells you that you're "home" is the vending machines with toothpaste, toothbrushes and razors...
    • by bofh69 (22591)

      . . . the guide hollers "Red Badge!" before you enter every room.

      (Sorry - inside joke.)
      I read this, and said to myself, this guy must have worked at the same place as me. Then I noticed who posted it. Mystery solved.
  • ...or maybe not: no where that I can see does that site have an address.

    It says it's located "...NSA Headquarters, Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland" but nothing you can look up.
  • I was there in '02 or '03 and they had a small library that was open for a few hours every other Saturday. I spent more time sitting on the floor flipping through random WW2 declassified documents than I spent looking at the exhibits. One book was just old photocopies of reports about the german spies during WW2. They were dropped off on the easy coast by u-boat. And since germany couldn't pay them they were given a large quantity of cocaine that they were supposed to sell to fund their activities.
  • I visited it but if I told you about it I would have to eliminate you.
  • ... never seemed more appropriate.
  • I visited a year or so ago. There was a really nice retired govie/docent, and among the many interesting things was a variety of Enigma machines, including one or two that could be played with. It was fun to mess with crypto machines of that era, and see how the drum system inside worked.

    It is a bit off the beaten path, but worth a visit if you are in the area.
  • For extra Maryland local knowledge points, what was the name of the motel that was once in the building now occupied by the Cryptologic Museum?

    (Peter Wayner, I'm shocked that you didn't have that in the NYT article. Or did you, and it was edited out?)

    - Robin
  • Went there a few years ago. The enigma machine was cool as was the slave quilt. It also gives you a sense of how spooky the signal corps can be.
  • I was there maybe a year and a half ago or so, very cool, and they have an AWESOME gift shop. I got a really sweet lenticular NSA logo mousepad -- but I later learned that optical mice don't like to be used on lenticular surfaces. Oh well, it's still cool. They have T-shirts and pens and mugs and all that stuff. The exhibits are really interesting. Very cool place to go.
  • Walked out my back door and crossed the street to get to work. I was living in on-base housing. And, no, there weren't any dirt roads to the buildings. It's right off a friggin' highway! What was scary was how open Ft. Meade was at the time. We damn near had an episode of "Cops" once when 2 guys robbed a gas station just off-base and ran through our back yard during the "getaway." Helicopters, cop cars, and cops with guns out everywhere in our neighborhood. Made for some interesting late night entert
  • True story:

    I was a codebreaker in the Army Security Agency from 71 to 77 and for the last five years worked at NSA. Taught myself programming to help automate some of the analysis I was doing at the time and was fortunate enough to work on some of the incredible hardware they had in the basement then. In 77 I had to decide whether to stay in (and stay poor on Army pay - about 10K/yr then) or get out and do real work, and interviewed with a number of DOD contractors around DC. When I told the interviewer
  • ... is here [flickr.com].

    All photos CC-licensed (By-SA) so have fun!
  • I was a 98C [goarmy.com](now it's 35N) in the US Army until recently and did a tour for No Such Agency. I remember visiting the museum with my grandparents and getting hassled by the cops when grandpa took some photos of their welcome sign. It was super interesting - the Civil War wing especially. Who knew there was a signals intelligence field or cryptographic enterprise in Lincoln's era?
  • I remember my trip to the NSA museum. We went in the early 1990's (c 1991). Now, please remember, this was 1) pre-Google 2) at the time when the cold war was not quite over and 3) the NSA was doing a much better job of staying out of the limelight and was rarely required to submit accounts of their actions even to Congress.

    Just finding the place required a few _weeks_ of detective work. We called the NSA a few times to get directions (and did we get some interesting questions from our department chair as
  • I was the president of the university UNIX User's Group in Harrisonburg (about 2 hours away) and we decided to go as a "field trip". For a bunch of UNIX nerds, let me tell you, the NSA Crypto Museum is a religious experience. It was probably the most excited some of us had been in years. The people there were *awesome*; you could tell they were genuinely happy to have a bunch of "kids" that were super-excited to be there. I had my picture taken with the working Enigma (replica?) they have on display. U
  • Great cryptologic resources, i wish i could go there :(
    Anjar Priandoyo securityprocedure.com [securityprocedure.com]

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