Ad-encrypted-bar

Encrypted newspaper advertisements were very popular in the 19th century. The ones I am going to introduce today are much younger. They were published in the 1980s.

One of the most quoted books on this blog is Jean Palmer’s The Agony Column (Jean Palmer is a pseudonym of blog reader Tony Gaffney). The Agony Column lists about 1,000 encrypted advertisements from English newspapers, mainly published in the late 19th century. Tony himself has broken many of these cryptograms. Others, which are still unbroken, were introduced on this blog.

For instance, the following ad was published in The Standard on May 26, 1888 (scan taken from Reddit):

Evening-Standard

According to a few literature sources, there were similar encrypted advertisements in France. Étienne de Bazeries, a famous French cryptographer, is said to have broken many of them for fun. He reportedly even forged ads for amusement.

To my regret, I have never seen a French encrypted newspaper ad. Perhaps, a reader knows a source.

 

Encrypted ads from the 1980s

Blog reader Gert Brantner recently posted a link to an article which mentions encrypted advertisements that are much younger. They were published in the 1980s in the German computer games magazine ASM (a magazine I read regularly in my teenager years) . In the headline of the article, advertisements of this kind are called “the darknet of the eighties”.

Here’s the first of three encrypted ads mentioned in the article:

Ad-64-2

Of course, this is not an encryption in the narrow sense. It’s more an encoding using the ASCII code. Here’s a transcription: 67 79 78 84 65 67 84 32 77 65 86 69 82 73 67 75 13 80 76 75 32 49 49 53 51 49 53 67 13 53 49 54 48 32 68 85 69 82 69 78 13 70 79 82 32 67 45 54 52 32 71 65 77 69 83 33. If we enter this message into an ASCII converter, we get:

CONTACT MAVERICK PLK 115315 C 5160 DUEREN FOR C-64 GAMES!

Düren (former postcode: 5160) is a town in Germany, near Cologne. PLK stands for Postlagerkarte. The Postlagerkarte (mail storage card) was a German postal service that enabled customers to receive mail anonymously, without providing any identification documents. It was introduced by the German Imperial Post in 1910 and abolished in 1991. The number 115315 C was the PLK identification of the person who placed the ad.

Apparently, the purpose of this advertisement was to sell pirate copies of C-64 software. As this was illegal, the software industry forced computer magazines to stop publishing ads with such a content. By encrypting their messages, illegal software dealers tried to circumvene this censorship. According to the article mentioned above, this trick worked for a while, before finally computer magazines had to reject illegal advertisements, even if they were not immediately readable.

Here’s another encrypted ASM ad:

Ad-64-3

The cleartext is PLK 045630C.

 

Decipher it yourself

And finally, here’s the third ad from the article:

Ad-64-1

This time, the text is encoded in hexadecimal numbers. Can you decipher it?

If you want to see more advertisements of this kind, search for ASM editions in the Internet Archive or via Google. Here is one I found. When you search for ASCII in the document, you will find, for instance, the following:

Question: What must you do to get a good C-64 contact? 
Answer: Dial 02156/6183 and ask for Thomas (Wizard)!!
ASCII-Code: 43 4F 4E 54 41 43 S4 3A
54 45 47 2F 50 4C 4B 20 30 32 38 39 
37 31 43 2F 44 2D 34 30 33 30 * Only 
52 41 54 4Q 4E 47 45 4E 20 31 * C-64 
Greets to CSGIf Trantor!! ****

Can you decipher this message?


Further reading: The Top 50 unsolved encrypted messages: 29. The Pollaky cryptograms

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Kommentare (2)

  1. #1 OK
    8. Februar 2018

    >> ASCII-Code: 43 4F 4E 54 41 43 S4 3A …<<

    S4 ??? Da war die OCR wohl nicht ganz sauber? Muss wohl eher 54 heißen.

  2. #2 schorsch
    8. Februar 2018

    Der in Hex verschlüsselte Text stellt eine Programmiervorschrift dar, eine Anweisung, wie die Speicherregister 1024-1056 (0x400-0x41f) zu beschreiben sind. Der 1k-Speicherbereich 1024-2047 wurde beim C64 in den Bildschirm eingeblendet; anstelle einer Ausgabe mittels Print-Befehls ließen sich diese Register mittels Poke-Befehls auch direkt ansprechen und so der Bildschirm beschreiben. Ein entspr. Programm lautet:

    10 poke 1024,3
    20 poke 1025,15
    30 poke 1026,14
    40 poke 1027,20
    50 poke 1028,1
    60 poke 1029,3
    70 poke 1030,20
    80 poke 1031,32
    90 poke 1032,16
    100 poke 1033,20
    110 poke 1034,8
    120 poke 1035,47
    130 poke 1036,16
    140 poke 1037,12
    150 poke 1038,11
    160 poke 1039,32
    170 poke 1040,48
    180 poke 1041,56
    190 poke 1042,51
    200 poke 1043,51
    210 poke 1044,51
    220 poke 1045,53
    230 poke 1046,1
    240 poke 1047,32
    250 poke 1048,50
    260 poke 1049,32
    270 poke 1050,8
    280 poke 1051,8
    290 poke 1052,32
    300 poke 1053,54
    310 poke 1054,48
    320 poke 1055,53

    Der entschlüsselte Text nach Aufruf dieses Programms lautet: CONTACT PTH/PLK 083335A 2 HH 605