Cryptography machines: a photo history

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The National Cryptologic Museum holds a fantastic history of code and code-breaking machines, which we've striven to catch on film.

There's no doubt that the star of the museum is the Enigma, the German device used by the Nazis in World War II to encrypt their messages and which the Allies finally broke.

A Dutchman, Hugo A. Koch, conceived the idea of the Enigma in 1919. The first commercial model was produced in 1923.

"Impressed by Enigma's security, based on careful statistical analysis, the German Government moved to acquire all rights to the machine. After Hitler's takeover in 1933, Enigma was no longer commercially available. The use of the machine spread to all branches of the German Government. As German military might began to grow, a new version of the machine, which featured an added plugboard or 'steckler', was adopted for general use by all services," the museum said.

Though Enigma gets all the glory, the German military worked on other cryptographic typewriters as well. They offered encryption and decryption, meaning that an operator could type in plain text and get encoded text out. They were built to handle large amounts of text at high speeds. An early version of these machines was called "Swordfish", and learning that, the Americans and the British began to give fish nicknames to various versions of the machine....

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