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Elektor Mag

Crowdsourcing an Open Source Enigma Replica

Marc Tessier and James Sanderson of S&T GeoTronics are in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to upscale the production of Enigma Mark 4 replica's. They first built a replica in 2013 and published the specs online. Spurred on by the enthusiastic response, they decided to make Enigma kits available through the Kickstarter website.

Crowdsourcing an Open Source Enigma Replica

The campaign is already a success. Within days they reached their $20.000 goal and are now aiming for the $50,000 stretch goal. With the extra money they will add extra features based on popular demand. Funders can request features such as M3 emulation, Telex behavior or cloud connectivity.

The Enigma is the famous rotor cipher machine used to encode and decode messages. It was invented by the Germans in 1918 and extensively used by the Nazi's before and during World War II. A good explanation of how it works is provided in the Numberphile video embedded below.

Today, ironically, the Enigma is best known for its flaws. The Enigma code was first broken by the Polish Cipher Bureau in 1932 but successive improvements to the Engima made the deciphering increasingly difficult. With help of the Polish groundwork, Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman designed an electromechanical device named Bombe which successfully deciphered Enigma generated messages. The Bombe provided the Allies with an intelligence advantage which contributed to winning the war.

The Kickstarter campaign flows out of a project Tessier and Sanderson started in 2013. They build the Arduino-based Enigma replica for a Geocache challenge and published the hardware schematics and software code on Instructables. The challenge turned out to be a disappointment but the project was a big hit on Instructables.

Under the name S&T Geotronics they started producing PCB boards and made them available for enthusiasts who wanted to reproduce their project. With the current campaign they're making several versions of the Enigma kit available. The simplest $40 version consists of the Enigma motherboard and daughterboard. A complete self-assembly kit is available for $125 and $300 gets you a fully functional device.

Tessel Renzenbrink

Mar 13, 2014

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