From WW2 to WWW
A 3D simulation of the Enigma cipher machine
Release due on Alan Turing's Birthday 23rd June 2021
Enigma is the brand name of a series of cipher machines developed in Germany between 1923 and 1945.
A number of these machines were used during World War 2 by the German Army, Navy and Air Force, this website has simulations for both the three rotor Enigma I used by the Heer (Army) and Luftwaffe (Air Force) and the four rotor Enigma M4 used by the Kriegsmarine (German Navy).
The Enigma code was cracked initially by the Poles in 1932 and famously later on by Bletchley Park who regularly read the German encrypted messages throughout the war.
Virtual Enigma is a 3d Enigma simulation which can run using just your browser. No install is necessary. It will be released on Alan Turing's Birthday 23rd June 2021Videos Photos
The Enigma M4 was a four rotor version used on the u-boats...
For mobile and tablet devices with orientation, it is possible to look around Enigma by moving your handset around.
My name is Martin Gillow I’ve lived and worked in Milton Keynes as a computer programmer since 2000 and have loved computers and programming ever since I saw my first Sinclair ZX80.
When I read in the local paper in 2007 that the first computer ever had been rebuilt and was being used in a world wide cipher challenge. I didn’t really know what exactly it did, but having read in books all my life the ENIAC was the first computer, finding out that the real first one was built in England and pretty much on my doorstep – a visit was mandatory.
I decided to go and see Bletchley Park, Enigma and Colossus for myself, I think about two days after this event. I had read a little about Enigma and Alan Turing from Simon Singh’s code book and was astounded to learn more about Bletchley Park and the work that went on there. At the end of the tour, I visited Block H and the National Museum of Computing to see Colossus.
We were treated to an amazing new story by a man named Tony Sale who told of the Lorenz and how it was broken by John Tiltman and Bill Tutte and then how Tommy Flowers came up with the amazing Colossus. Then we were told of the rediscovery of the information and the rebuild which we got to see running. This was a real jaw drop moment for me as I had never heard even a glimmer of any part of this story or of any of these people before and it really blew me away.
I think my dad bought me a book about Colossus in the shop which I read cover to cover to find out more about this story which told a bit more of the history and the basics of what is was doing during the war.
That was as far as I got but several years ago, I decided a trip back to the museum was in order now knowing a little more about Colossus so back I came and again was enthralled with the story about Bill Tutte and Tommy Flowers and felt awed standing in front of the actual machine. But this time, I knew a little more and looking at front of Colossus, I thought “I’ve been told about the tapes inputting the ciphertext and I know the results come out on the printer, but what exactly is the big bit in the middle with all the lovely switches, lights and dials doing?” (I could never resist anything with lots of switches!)
Having decided that the knowledgable guides were probably going to frown upon jumping over the rail and trying to find out, on getting home, I recalled that Tony Sale’s website had an emulator of Colossus so I decided to run that to find out more.
I booted up my nice new version of Chrome browser but only got an error message!
Not being one to give up so easily, I did a little digging and found with a little tweaking and an old version of Internet Explorer, it was possible to get it running. But the thought struck me, “What if someone else looks at this not working and decided to switch it off or maybe the option that allows it still to be used in IE would be removed!” The story of the rediscovery of Colossus is, for me, very much part of the whole package of what makes this story so great and to not have this part of it would be a great loss.
I decided to dig down into the code, to firstly work out what does what but to maybe rebuild the Virtual Colossus to bring it more up to date. Internet browser and computer technology has jumped generations since 2001 when Tony Sale wrote this, we now have touch screen interfaces and a lot more options on how to display information on the web.
I learnt a huge amount from this code, the website and various books purchased and started to piece together a picture in my mind of how Colossus functions and began just simulating a few switches which turned into panels and eventually rebuilt a new version of Virtual Colossus.
I now have online simulations of the German Lorenz SZ42 cipher machine (that Colossus was built to crack), the American Dragon cribbing machine, the British Typex cipher machine and even a simulation of ERNIE, the first Premium Bond random number generation machine (built by some of the same team that built Colossus). I've even recenltly rewritten my first Colossus into a full online 3D version so you can walk around it and press all the switches and buttons.
I didn't ever contemplate doing a 2D Enigma top down simulation, there are many very good versions out there already. But, at the end of 2020, I realised, after completing my first 3D simulation, that it was now possible to run a 3D simulation directly from the web. Using a flat simulation of Enigma means you can learn a lot of how it's used, but it's not the same as seeing a machine for real to understand how it's used. I decided to begin attempting a fully working 3D version and that is what will be released on this website on Alan Turing's Birthday 23rd June 2021