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A Programmer Solved a 20-Year-Old, Forgotten Crypto Puzzle


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Bernard Fabrot.

Self-taught Belgian programmer Bernard Fabrot has solved a puzzle created by cryptographer Ron Rivest, whose answer was required to open a 1999 time capsule at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Credit: Bernard Fabrot

Self-taught Belgian programmer Bernard Fabrot has solved a puzzle created by cryptographer Ron Rivest, required to open a 1999 time capsule at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The puzzle entailed calculating the number produced from running a squaring operation almost 80 trillion times, which results in a new number that can be translated into a short statement of congratulations.

Sequential operations are essential to solving the puzzle, precluding the use of parallel computing to arrive at an answer faster.

The puzzle was designed to take 35 years to solve, but Fabrot learned it could be solved faster with the open source GNU Multiple Precision Arithmetic Library.

Fabrot committed a central processing unit core on his home computer to run squaring operations round the clock, generating the solution in three-and-a-half years, beating a competing team that used specialized hardware.

From Wired
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