Put an Arduino Enigma in Your Pocket

The German Enigma device has always been a fascinating gadget for hackers. We’ve seen various replicas and emulators created over the years, and it was recently even the subject of our weekly Hack Chat. But if you think about it it’s not really a surprise; the Enigma has the perfect blend of historical significance and engineering wizardry, with a healthy dash of mystery thrown in. Why do the bad guys always have the coolest toys?

If you’ve ever wanted your own little Enigma replica to explore, [Mark Culross] has put together a project which makes it easier than ever. In fact, it’s so straightforward that some of you reading this post will probably be able to put one together as soon as you’ve read this post from stuff you already have lying around in the parts bin. All you need is an Arduino Uno, an Adafruit 2.8″ TFT Touch Shield, and a penchant for World War II technology.

Thanks to the relatively high-resolution touch screen, [Mark] was able to develop a user interface for his Enigma that really gives you a feel for how the original machine worked. Obviously it’s considerably simplified from the real-world version, but using a stylus to tap the rotors you want to spin or the wires you want plugged in makes for a more immersive experience than many of the previous attempts we’ve seen. With a tap you’re even able to load historical machine configurations, such as how the Enigma aboard the submarine U-262 was configured when the Allies intercepted its encoded messages in 1942.

[Mark] says this project was always about developing the software, and he leaves the actual hardware implementation as an exercise for the user. Just to play around with the software it’s enough to hook up an Arduino and the touch screen, but we’d love to see somebody really take the idea and run with it. Add some batteries, a charging circuit, and put it all in a little wooden box for that authentic Enigma look. Can’t forget that iconic wrinkle finish paint, either.

Over the years, we’ve seen replica Enigma machines in all shapes and sizes. From ones you could mount on your wrist, to full size replicas using modern components. We’ve even seen one variation that you can print out on a couple of sheets of paper. The parade of recreations shows no sign of stopping, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

15 thoughts on “Put an Arduino Enigma in Your Pocket

    1. That would be fantastic, giving the system a physical keyboard would open up more space on the screen for the lamps and rotors. I think leaving plug board in software probably reasonable enough concession for a miniature build, especially with the touch screen.

      1. Since this version already accepts input from the serial port & processes it the same as it does for input from the touchscreen keyboard, it should be fairly easy to marry these two projects this way (serially) !!

  1. I have been developing a very simple model of the Enigma machine. So far I have been able to have versions capable of compiling and running in Java, JavaScript, and Arduino-C, with only a few modifications. My goal is to preserve the algorithm and keep it simple for people to understand it, and not necessarily have any kind of fancy UI. It uses as much primitive operations and types as possible, that is the price of multi-language compatibility. Maybe during my vacations I may be able to put together an Android app that has some nice interface, in order to help less technical people to understand Enigma.

  2. Sadly, unimpressively another ‘reinvent the wheel’ project – Enigma encryption/decryption isn’t much of challenge any more nor a software/mcu-hardware recreation of a machine.

    I’d have been more impressed and equally comment positively if the time had been spent doing similar on one of less well known cypher units, such as the non-Enigma Morse/CW destined systems or one of the less well known teletype/FSK later evolutions like Lorenz/’Tunny’ (Lorenz became the root of most postwar TTY fsk-transmitted cypher systems (which were Lorenz much evolved and elaborated) encapsulated in those mysterious cypher boxes in embassies etc. Interestingly, there have been successful baudot and ASCII teletypes recreated with MCU’s, so a reverse engineered cypher box for such would definitely be worthy of note.

    1. Chris_M1BIK: I’m sorry that you seem to have missed the primary objective of this project: to allow anyone, using readily available components (Arduino+touchscreen), to be able to have a live, hands-on experience with a historical piece of equipment, using an accurate simulation that attempts to incorporate all of the physical elements in a way that makes it easy to use & facilitates understanding of the operations that occur inside the machine. As for the other systems that you mention as “worthy of note”, we’ll be anxiously looking forward to your recreation of the non-Enigma Morse/CW system, the Lorenz/Tunny system, etc & assume that you will take the time to post for others to enjoy . . . how soon do you anticipate that you’ll make this available for the rest of us to play with ?? Here’s your genuine & personal opportunity to really impress the rest of us !!

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