Lot 0323: 1944 M-209 Converter Crypto Machine (USA)
In cryptography, the M-209, designated CSP-1500 by the United States Navy (C-38 by the manufacturer) is a portable, mechanical cipher machine used by the US military primarily in World War II, though it remained in active use through the Korean War.
The M-209 was designed by Swedish cryptographer Boris Hagelin in response to a request for such a portable cipher machine, and was an improvement of an earlier machine, the C-36. It represented a brilliant achievement for pre-electronic technology. It was a rotor machine similar to a telecipher machine, such as the Lorenz cipher and the Geheim-fernschreiber.
Basic operation of the M-209 is relatively straightforward. Six adjustable key wheels on top of the box each display a letter of the alphabet. These six wheels comprise the external key for the machine, providing an initial state, similar to an initialization vector, for the enciphering process.
To encipher a message, the operator sets the key wheels to a random sequence of letters. An enciphering-deciphering knob on the left side of the machine is set to "encipher". A dial known as the indicator disk, also on the left side, is turned to the first letter in the message. This letter is encoded by turning a hand crank or power handle on the right side of the machine; at the end of the cycle, the ciphertext letter is printed onto a paper tape, the key wheels each advance one letter, and the machine is ready for entry of the next character in the message. To indicate spaces between words in the message, the letter "Z" is enciphered. Repeating the process for the remainder of the message gives a complete ciphertext, which can then be transmitted using Morse code or another method. Since the initial key wheel setting is random, it is also necessary to send those settings to the receiving party; these may also be encrypted using a daily key or transmitted in the clear.
Printed ciphertext is automatically spaced into groups of five by the M-209 for ease of readability. A letter counter on top of the machine indicated the total number of encoded letters and could be used as a point of reference if a mistake was made in enciphering or deciphering.
The deciphering procedure is nearly the same as for enciphering; the operator sets the enciphering-deciphering knob to "decipher” and aligns the key wheels to the same sequence as was used in enciphering. The first letter of the ciphertext is entered via the indicator disk, and the power handle is operated, advancing the key wheels, and printing the decoded letter on the paper tape. When the letter "Z" is encountered, a cam causes a blank space to appear in the message, thus reconstituting the original message with spaces. Absent "Z"s can typically be interpreted by the operator, based on context.
An experienced M-209 operator might spend two to four seconds enciphering or deciphering each letter. After World War II, all modern armies became highly mechanized. This war had taught us how important a good logistics organization was; huge numbers of military utility vehicles were produced for a quick supply and delivery of all kinds of combat equipment, such as artillery tractors, trucks, and for the transport of infantry.
The US Counterpart of the German Enigma!
Model: M-209 Converter Crypto Machine
Design by: Boris Hagelin
Manufacturer: Smith Corona Typewriter Company in
Weight: 6 pounds (2.7 kg) plus
1 pound (0.45 g) for the case)
Dimensions The M-209 is about the size of a
Length: 3 ¼ in (83 mm)
Width: 5 ½ in (140 m)
Height: 7 in (178 m)
More info: YouTube Link to M-209
Location: Nederweert, the Netherlands
Condition: In absolute fantastic condition and almost
100% complete including all accessories!
Permits: No specific permits required.
Between € 3.500 and € 5.000