The Enigma Code

The Enigma, known famously for its use during the World War 2. It was a device used by the Germans to encrypt their messages. It was made by Arthur Scherbius in 1918, he took many years in improving it to what it is now (Enigma History, 2016). The device had 5 different rotors and an electric circuit. Each rotor shows different letters of the alphabets. From there it used a letter substitution system that helped rearrange all the words (BBC – History – Enigma (Pictures, Video, Facts & News), 2016). What made this device unique is that the operator who sent is has a set of codes that were made by the machine. The codes must have the exact with the settings. Without these codes no one is able to decipher the message.

During the war the enemy would send their messages via radio that could be intercepted by their enemies but they were not worried at all. As long as they did not have that line of codes, no one could crake it. In 1939, Alan Turing and his colleague, Gordon Welchman, design a new machine called the Bombe (Alan Turing Scrapbook – The Enigma War, 2016). In fact is machine was considered to be an early stage of our now a day’s computer (“Computer Science for Fun – cs4fn: Was the first computer a ‘Bombe’?”, 2016). The purpose of Bombe was to help break the code needed for Enigma (Enigma History, 2016). What the machine did was run through all the possible letters that would fit the code. Once they had the key component of the code they could break any message.

Path of a a single letter through an Enigma machine

It is interesting how the Enigma was not intended to be used as something to support military power. The original design of the device was met to be used for commercial companies to help provide a more secure line of communication (Code Breaking, 2014). In terms of codification the Enigma had a unique way in doing so. This is a two way communication device, the person sending the message is known as the operator and the messages are delivered towards the receiver. When the operator presses any of the letters, it begins to send an electric signal that goes through the Enigmas (Dade, 2016).

The signals would have to first pass through the plugboard. The plugboard may have been wired up with different letters. For example, on the plugboard the letter ‘R’ is rewired towards ‘D’. So if the letter ‘R’ is to be typed the signal will then be rerouted towards the letter ‘D’. The signal will go on to the second stage but this time it is now the letter ‘D’ (Dade, 2016).

The next part is the static rotor which links the signal to the other three rotors. Each of the three rotors are connected with a ring. From here it rotates and scramble the letters. The same letter is not connected to its own letter. So if the letter ‘A’ is placed it will not come out again as ‘A’ ever. To make the coding process even more complex each rotor has its own notches at different positions. So if the first notch were to be triggered it will affect the rotor next to it. Causing the letters to shift again (Dade, 2016).

The reflector then reflex back the signals towards the rotors. Even at this process the letters are wired differently when sent back. This is because of the way the Enigma is design. If the message were to be sent back with the same letters it would have decoded the message itself back to its original letter. Finally it stops at the lampboard. This is where it lights up to show what the letter has been converted to. For example, if the letter was ‘O’ the lampboard will light up the new letter ‘E’. Showing that the original letter is ‘O’ but now encrypted to ‘E’ (Dade, 2016).

Although this was considered the greatest form of encryption during that time. With the advancement of modern technology there are other ways that can help encrypt information at a faster and more affordable ways. The Enigma can be found in museums and now there are even websites that help provide the same services of what an Enigma can do.

An interesting point about the Enigma was that it did not show any spaces. Meaning that you would send your message through but the receiver would have to decode again to a proper sentence. An example, “HELL OHOW AREY OU”. This is what the receiver would see. They would then have the break it up and get the message which would be “Hello How Are You”. This one piece of technology has many decode and encode states that keeps on looping together. So that the message may be as safe as possible. The amount of parts and steps that were used to encode the message was very delicate. As they consider on how to not only encode the message but to also create the machine in such a way that it would not decode the code they just created. Here is a link to a site that is an online Enigma if you are interested in trying how this encoding device works .



Alan Turing Scrapbook – The Enigma War, 2016,, viewed on August 17, 2016, <;

BBC – History – Enigma (pictures, video, facts & news), 2016, , viewed on August 17, 2016, <;

Code Breaking, 2014, HISTORY, viewed on August 17, 2016, <;

Computer Science for Fun – cs4fn: Was the first computer a ‘Bombe’?, 2016,, viewed on August 17, 2016, <;

Dade, L. (2016). How Enigma Machines Work. viewed on August 17, 2016, <;

Dade, Louise. “How Enigma Machines Work”. N.p., viewed on August 17, 2016.

Enigma History. (2016)., viewed on August 17, 2016, <;


One thought on “The Enigma Code

  1. Wow this is fascinating, I love the fact that the plugboard in the picture has the QWERT ! It’s amazing to think how long ago even the idea of the QWERTY keyboard seeded. This post provides a cool lil annexe to the topic for this week considering its all about how these technologies were first used primarily militarily, whereas this started out commercial. Crazy to think this stuff would’ve been revolutionary at the time!


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