Geeks love puzzles and Dr. Paul Boca came up with the best personalized puzzle for his girlfriend of 11 years, Dr. Sue Black, when he presented her with an encrypted marriage proposal using a World War 2 Enigma machine simulator.
On Leap Day, February 29, the 53-year-old author and computer scientist Dr. Black was sitting on the couch when her 47-year-old beau Dr. Boca (also a computer scientist and IT consultant) presented the encrypted proposal to her to decode, she told The Knot.
“He came over and sat next to me on the sofa with his laptop. He said look at the screen, so I did. It showed an Enigma machine simulator.”
As evidenced by photo of the encrypted proposal she shared with The Knot, the code which Dr. Black needed to crack showed “21,23vl9!37ag9″?az”, a garbled mix of digits, letters and symbols she needed to decrypt.
“He said ‘click on decrypt,’” and using her now-fiance’s first name P-A-U-L for the Enigma’s positioning, when the decrypted text popped up it read, “Will you marry me?” And of course she said “yes” to her boyfriend’s unique encrypted proposal.
Dr. Boca had found an online simulation of the Enigma machine to encrypt the proposal. The Enigma machine was a cryptography device first used by German Intelligence during World War 2, until it was cracked by Allies in Bletchley Park in England. The Allies then used the Enigma cipher to decode German military messages to help end the war. This puzzling proposal was not just a fun way to ask for her hand in marriage, but somewhat of a tribute to something very near and dear to the bride-to-be Dr. Black.
She explained to The Knot, “I started a campaign to save Bletchley Park: the place where 10,000 people worked (including 300 US military) during WW2 breaking the German codes. The work done there has been said to have shortened the war by 2 years.” Calculating the impact the code breakers had on the outcome of WW2 Dr. Black shared, “because 11 million people a year were dying, that means that the work done there potentially saved 22 million lives.”
When Bletchley Park began having financial difficulties in 2008, Dr. Black explained to The Knot how she started a campaign to save it. “Social media, mainly Twitter was key in the success of the campaign which lasted 3 years. My book Saving Bletchley Park is all about the campaign to save Bletchley Park and also about Bletchley Park, what happened there, why it was important and why it needed saving.”
As an advocate for the historic location where the codebreakers resided Dr. Black told The Knot her fiance, “wanted to do something different and thought it was very appropriate as I ran the campaign to save Bletchley Park where the Enigma code was broken during WW2.” Not only did he top the charts in geeky proposals, he made sure the engagement was perfectly matched to his future wife’s passions.
The couple met back in November 2004 at a mutual friend’s party, and Dr. Black shared with The Knot, “When Paul walked into the restaurant I thought ‘he’s gorgeous’ and was the one for me!”
The two tech lovers don’t have wedding plans just yet but with 11 years of dating (and an awesome encrypted proposal) under their belts, we’re sure more happy years are in the codes for Dr. Sue Black and Dr. Paul Boca!