Kickstarting an Arduino-based Enigma machine


Coming soon, an arduino based bombe…


The Arduino based Antikythera Mechanism?

The whole appeal of the Enigma machine to me is that it was mechanical. This is like buying a digital Westminster Clock Tower, complete with an mp3 of the Big Ben.


Exactly. It’s like why owning a mechanical watch is a joy even though they are more expensive and less accurate than battery-operated ones. It’s not terribly surprising to me that a device with a battery can keep time, but one that works off the unpredictable motion of the wearer is magical. Similarly, the wonder of Engima is that, although electrically powered, it worked completely without computers.


I opened one of these enigmas up and inside I found a riddle wrapped in a mystery. But from there it was just riddles all the way down. Now I’m looking for a clue. Does anyone know where I can buy one?


Completely agree. I really don’t like this thing.

Yes, but just like when you compare a digital watch to high quality mechanical one, the cost differential is significant. It’s all nice and fine to say that this isn’t as cool as the original. I’ll bet that the makers of this would agree. But you would have a difficult time constructing a mechanical equivalent to the Enigma for $3000, much less $300. So if this is a tenth as cool, it’s still an interesting project.


After seeing the videos, my only (minor) quibble is that they should have made setting the outer rings the last mode rather than the penultimate one. Because that is the only setting that changes EVERY MESSAGE, since it is physically the easiest thing to change. And you need to change something every message so that you can’t do a frequency analysis across multiple messages.

No, but I have a Kickstarter…


It is ridiculous to have an Arduino Mega running these things.

That’s the kind of board you use to prototype a project like this. It’s out-of-the-park overpowered and overpriced for what you need it to do here. Migrate the code to a more appropriate microcontroller.

They use 43 lines of I/O … it’s either the Mega or the equally-priced Duo if you want to keep it Arduino. It’s not just the alpha numeric display for the code wheel, but also a keyboard and 26-LED output. Of course, they could also use some sort of LED driver chip to allow a lower-cost processor, but that presents a barrier-to-entry for the novice arduino programmer to hack it. If you’re building a custom wooden case, price isn’t their most pressing concern.

It’s like the tv-b-gone kit … I told Limor that RLE compression could have made the firmware smaller and reduced costs, but she correctly pointed out the same less-hackable argument.


I had that thought as well, that this was also a decision to make I/O easy. And exactly like you said, there are some straightforward ways to do a lot of that with other on-board logic.

I’ll concede that the Mega offers some real ease-of-design benefits. But I’d like to see someone try doing it the other way, too.

I sincerely doubt that it would cost $3000 to make an accurate reproduction of an Enigma. More than $300, sure, but that’s to be expected since you’re going to be dealing with parts that aren’t mass produced for pennies.

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IMHO, these guys are just trying to re-create the experience of using the machine. As well as introducing the concepts and practice of encryption to many newbies. Speaking as one who has experience with mechanical computers (Digi-Comp I, early sixties), I say bravo. And I’m trying to deciced if I have the funds right now to get in on this.

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Even though all plugboard functionality has been implemented in software, a plugboard with 10 jumpers is also included for a more accurate look & feel.

This is a very cool project, but it is unfortunate the jumpers in the back of the machine don’t “do” anything. OK, working mechanical rotors are not possible, but the jumpers are implementable (albeit, another I/O requirement).

I understand what they’re trying to do, if someone actually did a electro-mechanical reproduction, I’d be tempted to save up for a copy.

The thing for me is the wheels, wiring, and the plug board. Those key components which really made up the enigma machine. Looking at theirs, most of that is emulated by software. Which is fine, but for me, I’d rather tinker with java/javascript simulation if that logical part is done in software.

Not to say it’s a bad thing, just not appealing enough for me.

Now if I could just get an Arduino-based Typ VIIc boat to install it in…

Hate to be ‘that guy’ but wth? If you wanna mess around with something that operates like an enigma machine then just get the freaking app. This is entirely unappealing since, as other commenters have pointed out, this isn’t an engineered machine like the enigma machine and that mechanical computer aspect is much of what people love about it.

Enigma Simulator

Enigma Machine

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