Inside the Enigma cipher machine

What is it all about?

What is it all about?

Isn’t the Internet already full of information, pictures, stories and other stuff about the Enigma? Well, the answer is of course – yes, it is. There are lots of resources and many people interested in the topic are adding new ones. As a matter of fact we decided to create a whole section devoted to this subject – the library. Of course You can easily do a simple Google search, but we’ll try to add a kind of structure to the set of links, possibly and hopefully with a wide description of its content. As You might have noticed there is an EDU part in this website’s URL, so as a decent (to be, hopefully) educational medium we want to give references to further, possibly more detailed reading.

What is the new thing here going to be then? Well, we have a vision (and ambition, with a lot of hope towards making it happen) of this one aggregate website focused on bringing the whole knowledge to You. What knowledge and how? Well, maybe first I’ll tell How did it start? As You will be able to read from about us page – the person on the other end of the wire is a graduate from the Departament of Mathematics and Computer Science at Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznań. This guy is me – the author of this post. I have completed two faculties, wrote two M.A. theses – one in the field of mathematics, the other in computer science (no surprise here probably, considering the department name). The second one is where everything started. Its subject was Enigma – visualisation of construction and cipher breaking methods. The main point was to create a 3D model of the machine and use it to visualize how Enigma actually worked and how its construction is translated to the mathematical theory behind it. The theoretical part was to introduce all the maths needed to explain how and why the ciphering process is actually legit. So basically I started with permutations, having in mind that the potential reader might not know anything about them. I’ve added examples to show the ideas. And the result in the end was just the formula for the cipher. The thesis will be available in the papers section soon probably.

Now we can go back and answer the question what knowledge and how? So the answer is: exactly the aforementioned knowledge from the thesis plus more in the subject of breaking the cipher. But first things first. At the beginning we want to show how one particular model of Enigma is constructed and do it as thoroughly as possible. During the research on the subject I had to get quite a lot of facts that were given in many forms: as a text describing how things work, as images and simple animations showing some parts of the mechanism, as videos with actual Enigmas and their parts. But there was no single source to explain everything from top to bottom. And not every element of the puzzle got covered enough. Sometimes it took quite some time to figure things out. But at the very moment of writing this post I think I have everything needed to answer the next question.

Why is it (or might be) interesting? Well, the resulting 3D model covered something about 25% of the real thing. What was modelled is actually very close in details coverage to what can be found in the file from Noah Lockwood or this commercially available model from turbosquid. This is easily enough to show how to operate the machine, but quite too little for any geek who wants to know everything thoroughly. There is one more fine site that presents 3D printings of some of the elements, but I couldn’t find any direct info about an actual file available for the public. I’m waiting for an answer to my email asking about it. So basically what I hope will be interesting is my current work developed with a little help received during a course at 3D Technology Park For Contemporary Art. At the moment of writing this post I have roughly 95% of the geometry that comprises full model of the machine. And up until the time I’ve decided to take care of this website it kept growing. What is missing at the moment are the cables inside rotors, entry wheel and reflector, some small enhancements to those elements and some proofreading review of the machine as a whole. The layering of parts and hierarchy are done on-line. And now something that blows my mind. Currently the machine model consists of 2127 objects. 2127. This might be a consequence of me not being a pro in the field of 3D modelling. Perhaps I’ve made a couple of bad choices. For sure there are some like that. But anyway that’s just the geometry. When it is done completely I will have to take care of visual appearance and work on textures and materials. Well – mostly on materials as textures images and their assignment were done on-line. There might be one small pitfall though. I’ve never been close to a real, physical Enigma machine. The one that I have modelled has everything in place – when brought to a physical being as it is, it would have a really great chance to actually work. But it is not a historically legitimate one. I simply couldn’t lay my hands on any, so everything is modelled from pictures available in the internet. The most important thing though is that it shows everything to understand the construction. And the percent of historical compatibility is roughly close to 95. So it is close enough! How does that explain the interesting part then? It opens an interesting perspective. The one of actually realizing the vision of a nice multimedia-rich thorough online explanation of the Enigma.

But why even do such a thing, you might wonder. Why do I think it is interesting? Is it? Is it interesting? Well, my answer could be yes, it is, period. Unfortunately it can’t and it is partly an answer to the next question: why am I not just doing it, but writing about it? Well, to make a long story short – I need help. I am not a blogger neither I want to be considered one – usually I don’t talk much but prefer to just do it. But I reached a point where I see that this is not a one man job here (actually it could be, but it would be a long long one man job). The aforementioned number of 2127 objects already could be enough for an explanation. Surely some optimizations could be introduced (and will be). But anyhow, just to produce quite a long detailed HD animation that we need there is much more rendering power needed than the one that I have (which is already quite powerful actually). And will it actually make any sense to create such a thing (whatever this is I am planning, more on that in future posts) as an educational website covering the Enigma maths and construction? Earlier in this paragraph I’ve mentioned that it is something interesting, but will there actually be any response to that? What will the reception be? Well – I’ve decided to check by putting the idea online and see. To increase my chances significantly I’ve decided to run this page in English. There will be time for translations in the future hopefully.

So I’ve decided to seek for some help. As soon as this page goes online I’ll try to reach some powerful local people and organisations, but any aid is welcome. If You’d like to help then You might do it in two ways. And actually I don’t prefer any. So the first one is that You can contribute. It would be nice to just work with some new and passionate people like You are (derived from the fact that You did survive to this line). The second way is that You could donate. It would buy me some time (as I could work less and thus work more on the project). It could also allow to arrange some professionals to work with me, finance infrastructure and maybe buy some proprietary fancy helpful software. What would You get in return? Well, for sure some recognition in the form of making this list and making the credits. What more? If the donations are sufficient, then You could easily invoice me for the work You’ve done. You need something else? Just say what it is and we’ll talk about it. Anyway You can donate here and tell me what You’re good and how You can contribute by simply contacting me.