One of the most thrilling stories of technology, communication and mystery is reflected in the history and development of the Enigma Machine. As its name states, the machine was a cryptographic invention that changed the evolution of the World War II. But what was the story behind this device?
The Enigma story began in the 1920s when the German military began to communicate their strategies and campaigns in coded messages. They used a machine created by Arthur Scherbius, a German engineer that wanted to ensure a more safe way of communication for commercial companies. His idea was taken up by the army in 1928 and then the air force in 1933. Convinced that their Enigma messages were unbreakable, the Germans used the machine for battlefield, naval and diplomatic communications.
An Enigma machine was basically an electro-mechanical rotor cipher machine. Enigma allowed an operator to type in a message, then scramble it by using three to five notched wheels, or rotors, which displayed different letters of the alphabet. Over the years the basic machine became more complicated as German code experts added plugs with electronic circuits.
As Germany became more threatening in the World War II, the main challenge of the Allied forces was to decipher the Enigma machine and all its mechanism. As such a special task force was created, lead by Alan Turing. Although the experts at Bletchley first succeeded in reading German code during the 1940 Norwegian campaign, their work only began to pay off in 1941, when they were able to gather evidence of the planned invasion of Greece, and learn Italian naval plans for the Battle of Cape Matapan. Furthermore, the effort to break the Enigma was not disclosed until the 1970s. Since then, interest in the Enigma machine has grown.
The Enigma machine remains however one of the most fascinating devices and stories. It’s invention changed the evolution of the war and challenged some of the greatest minds. It has been claimed that as a result of the information gained through this device, hostilities between Germany and the Allied forces were curtailed by two years. The device also lead the way for many other devices and concepts of espionage and cryptography.