Dan March 25, 2006 11:18 AM

Holy whatever; that is amazing. Have a look at some of his other projects; this guy is one busy banana.


Henning Makholm March 25, 2006 12:13 PM

Beautiful, yes. Extremely nice craftsmanship.

On the other hand, the WWII Enigmas didn’t have a full alphanumeric aphabet, did they? I seem to have read somewhere that numbers had to be spelled out as words (and that one of Bletchley Park’s tricks was to look for the “eins” plaintext that frequently resulted).

steve g March 25, 2006 12:53 PM

wow… great craftsmanship.

(well, the original enigma didn’t have centronics connectors. and the steckbrett is missing)

Also the other works are… fantastic. I don’t know how to describe it otherwise


Romeo March 25, 2006 8:12 PM

Enigma is the first modern cipher system in my opinion, especially for its idea on big key space, substitution and so on.

antibozo March 25, 2006 8:18 PM

That is a truly humbling site. Thanks for pointing it out.

Check out the oscilloscope she built–at age 14.

Also, ya gotta love the Fram oil filter on High Vacuum Coating Machine #2.

Anonymous March 26, 2006 6:54 AM

Gut-wrenchingly sick with envy at three things van Vark posesses:
1. superhuman innate talent
2. access to machine lathe
3. gobs of free time
Probably in reverse order, given what’s likely in this lifetime.
Beautiful stuff.

Anonymous March 26, 2006 6:09 PM

I had the opportunity to play with an Enigma device a couple of years ago. The keyboard does have all the characters of the alphabet, but not in the standard qwerty order.

It’s an interesting little device, well designed for it’s day.

What you may not get from the above NSA jpg is that the letters above light up when you press one of the keys.

Sam Samshuijzen March 26, 2006 7:14 PM

As webmaster (plus design) of Tatjana’s site I noticed in the stats lots of attention from this thread.
I’m pleased with the positive reactions. I noticed some remarks and questions about the works and will pass this on to her (she doesn’t use internet herself).

Phill March 26, 2006 10:05 PM

It looks like it is an ‘enigma type’ machine. The idea of a rotory encryption device was patented before WWII, the patent description itself was used in the early Polish efforts at cryptanalysis.

An interesting challenge would be to design a mechanical crypotography machine produced with period type materials that provides AES cipher strength. It is not as easy as it might sound. Merely increasing the number of rotors soon hits the problem of mechanical friction. The enigma units themselves are a bear to use, certainly not designed for touch typing.

Roger March 27, 2006 12:08 AM

All of Tatjana’s stuff is beautiful, and fascinating. A sublime combination of engineering, art and sheer craftsmanship — perhaps exemplified by the first poem on the “personal” page.

I would like to know a little more about the workings of the “coding machine” though. Clearly it is not exactly Enigma as it has 40 contacts per rotor, and the most on any Enigma model was 28, with most having 26. Other than that, pertinent cryptographic characteristics seem to be:

  • No stecker, but
  • Has an Uhr box, or something like it, however with 24 settings instead of 40, and the plugging arrangements hardwired by the shape of the D-connector
  • 3 ordinary rotors but the reflector is also stepped.
  • At least one rotor has multiple stepping notches (four of them)
  • Stepping notches attached to rotor body instead of setting ring

This makes it pretty similar to the Abwehr Enigma (Enigma model G), but not exactly like any of them. It would be nice to have some more details to see if this is actually “Enigma G + custom Uhr box”, or something else. And it would be nice to know the internal arrangements of the Uhr box.

Allan March 27, 2006 12:41 AM

Wonderful piece of work, that.

Sadly, the only things I know about Enigma is what was covered in Cryptonomicon. Which is conincidentally what brought me to your newsletters a few years back.

Clive Robinson March 27, 2006 7:12 AM

@ ouah

Yes you can get an electronic one at Bletchly, I designed a similar one years ago as a student project allong with a bombe (and broke a couple of original messages with).

What all the electronics lack though is the joy and pleasure of the machine, watching it work intuitivly fealing you know how it “realy” works, it’s all lost with electronics 🙁

I guess Tatjana’s also does not have the flaw in the mechanical drive mecanisum the original German ones did (which limited the cycle length and gave a start position that was not reproducable, which incidently helped with the cryptanalysis…).

bob March 27, 2006 7:27 AM

Beautiful. Shame she couldnt have fabricated her own centronics connectors; they are the only thing ordinary looking on the whole thing.

J.D. Abolins March 27, 2006 9:50 AM

Clive Robinson mentioned a “bombe”. Some of the Enigma, Bletchey Park, etc. references already mentioned might have a photo of a bombe. If not, here’s a photo I took of a U.S. Navy bombe at the NSA’s Cryptologic Museum:

As explained to me by the museum’s docent, the bombe got its name from 1) the ticking noise it made as it started up and 2) from a French dessert. It served to hide the device’s code breaking function.

Clive Robinson March 27, 2006 11:23 AM

@J.D. Abolins

There are various stories about the bombe and how it was named (Tony Sale told me a few of them a few years ago when setting up the BP trust, he became it’s first curator).

Apparently the one given most credence (at the time 😉 was that it was named after an Italian Ice Cream making machine that the first Polish device looked like…

If you have an interest in such things you might want to visit Tony Sale’s home page,

which has links of to the re-build projects for the BTC Bombe (cantab) and the Colosus project as well as other stuff relating to the Enigma.

Pat Cahalan March 27, 2006 11:42 AM

@ Plead

oooooh, cryptanalyst p0rn!

Looking at the rest of her site, I’d say this qualifies as overall geek porn. She even has a 5 axes joystick for the gamers out there.

Bruce, better clear her site from your cache a’fore the wife finds out…

Sam Samshuijzen March 27, 2006 8:45 PM

2 Bruce Schneier
Actually the joystick was made for a flight simulator program for some government and still in use.

Roger March 27, 2006 9:22 PM

@Sam Samshuijzen:

Are you in regular contact with Tatjana?

If so, could I ask you to ask her to publish some cryptography geek data to go with her design? Things like:
* is stepping cyclometric, Enigma-like, or otherwise?
* what are the turnovers for each rotor?
* eintrittwalze order
* rotor wiring and/or how it was arrived at
* what does the superencipherment attachment do?


Sam Samshuijzen March 28, 2006 7:19 PM

Yes, we even live in the same village.
I will soon show her your questions.

Clive Robinson March 29, 2006 5:11 AM


If you want one and you don’t mind it being a somewhat manky (they have been buried for sixty years) there are ten buried behind the stables at Bletchly Park, all you need to do is find them.

At the end of the War Churchill ordered that BP be closed down and moved (ended up as the DWS at Pownden in Oxfordshire). In the move process several captured Enigmas where buried in the grounds. The approximat location of ten was revealed a few years ago by the person given the job of Burn&burying them.

Apparently they where supposed to burn them first and then bury them off site, but there was so much stuff and so little time they just stuck them in the hole around the back.

As far as I know nobody has dug up what is left of them (yet). Mind you having looked around the back on a number of occasions you might spend a lot of time looking 😉

Fuzzy April 1, 2006 11:50 PM

So, if I win this auction, how do I verify the authenticity of this box? I’m in Pittsburgh, and the Enigma is in Munich.

Adjunct Research Computer Scientist
Carnegie Mellon

Sam Samshuijzen April 3, 2006 8:39 PM

Tatjana’s reaction on these comments can be found at “Inside Information”.

Sam Samshuijzen April 5, 2006 5:53 PM

Correction : Tatjana’s statements will be placed elsewhere on the website, also because new material is coming on.

docmanle April 9, 2006 5:18 AM

It was me who bought item 6265092168 last week. Actually, she’s wonderful and in perfect shape, with only a very minor exception: some bozo inserted a new bulb in one of the two empty slots. Since the modern bulbs are slightly too high, this scratched the cover with the letters a bit from the inside (but it’s not visible from the outside). It seems it wi’ll be hard to find original replacement bulbs.

P.S.: Sorry, fuzzy…

Bruce Schneier April 9, 2006 9:19 AM

@ docmanle:

Congratulations on your purchase. I would have liked to own it, but the price got WAAAY to expensive for me.

Do you live in Germany? How did you get it shipped to you? One of my concerns with the auction was that I wouldn’t be able to authenticate the transaction, and had to trust the seller. It seemed like a lot of money to do that.

docmanle April 9, 2006 2:05 PM

Yes, she wasn’t exactly cheap. I live in Germany and tried to convince myself that the seller is trustworthy before I bid. After I had won the auction I picked up the gem myself instead of having it shipped. I definitely had a regional advantage; I wouldn’t have bid if the seller was in another continent.

As an aside, it seems that she does have a serial number. Upon my first examination I found what I believe to be a serial number, although someone tried to remove/destroy all of the common occurrences of serials. I consider having the rotors X-rayed to see whether traces of the scratched-out serials can still be found, and match the number I found in another place.

Another wild idea: there’s a chance that the steckerbrett cables are still in their original position (i.e. the permutation used for her last duty); similar for the rotor settings. If I could manage to locate this combination in a key list somewhere this could give a clue to the time and date of her (last) use. Scouring paper archives sounds like a suitable task when I’m retired 🙂

Fuzzy April 13, 2006 1:35 PM

So docmanie…what’s the deal with the serial numbers being removed on this machine? I have to say that that kept me form bidding higher. Any information from the seller on why they were removed or who removed them?


ps: Congratulations…take good care of it!

docmanLe April 14, 2006 3:10 PM

The seller’s grandpa bought it shortly after the end of the war. I don’t know for sure, but my take is that at the time the person who scratched out the serial numbers was afraid of the original location of the machine being found out. Maybe they thought that the serials would give a clue to the one who stole it while still being a member of the German military? In any case, I’m pretty sure that the serials were already deleted when the seller’s grandpa bought the machine.

cryptic April 15, 2006 9:28 AM

This machine is really beautiful.

I’m looking for something that can be practically used. Maybe somebody has any schematics of such electronic devices? I’m looking for something like electronic Enigma kit but with strong crypto. I have some basic skills in electronic but creating something like this would be rather hard for me…

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