← Die Handelsmaschine
Enigma H →
Enigma A →
Printing Enigma machine · 1924-1926
Die schreibende Enigma (English: the printing Enigma) was an electromechanical
developed between 1924 and 1926 by Scherbius & Ritter
in Berlin-Wannsee (Germany), as the successor to the so-called
It was the second machine to be sold under
the Enigma brand
and was succeeded in 1929 by the improved
Enigma Model H29,
or Enigma H.
Unlike Die Handelsmaschine – which featured a rotating print wheel
that was unreliable at high speeds – the Schreibende
Enigma featured the more common type-bars, which were already
used widely in the typewriters or the era. For this reason, the machine
is also known under the name Typenhebelmaschine (type bar machine).
The rare photograph shown on the right, shows the large and heavy
machine, mounted onto a metal base that houses the electromechanical
parts that drive cipher mechanism and cause a letter to be printed
on the paper. Many of the parts, such as the keyboard, the type-bars,
the ink ribbon and
the carriage, had probably been 'borrowed' from an existing electric
The keyboard consists of 60 keys, divided over 6 rows, plus a space
bar with a special SHIFT-key at either side. The leftmost one is used
to switch to figures, whilst the rightmost returns to letters.
Pressing either one automatically inserts a space.
The coding wheels had only 26 contacts, so only the letters A-Z were included
in the ciphertext message. A clever system for switching between alphabets was used,
such as the one described in German patent DE425566
of 28 February 1924. In the patent, inventor Paul Bernstein describes a system
to use the letters 'J' and 'Q' for switching to numbers and back to letters.
In the output, the 'J' is replaced by an 'I' and the 'Q' is replaced by a 'K',
so that the text is still comprehensible.
The machine is very similar to a standard typewriter,
but has a large extention on the right.
The message key can be entered with the knobs on the right side
of the machine. The current settings, consisting of 4 letters and 5 numbers,
can be read from a window at the front of the large extension.
The actual coding parts are mostly hidden behind the machine's front cover.
The image on the right shows the machine with
its front cover removed, so that the four cipher wheels are clearly
visible. Both photographs were found in the archives of the
Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA)
in 2009 .
Development of the machine was started in late 1923, with a projected
introduction sometime during 1924. Although several prototypes were made,
the design met various production
and reliability problems, and it was not before 1926 that the
printing mechanism was reliable enough for release. It is currently
unknown how many units were produced, but given their high price of
RM 8000, it seems likely that only a modest quantity was ever made.
In 1929, the machine was succeeded by the Enigma Model H29
(designator Ch.14) —
the last printing Enigma machine.
In the meantime, a smaller and much more affordable machine had
been introduced in 1924. Known as the
machine) it used light bulbs for its output and was easier to handle
as it was a reciprocal system. The first machine of this type was
the Enigma A,
soon followed by Enigma B
and Enigma C.
It was the beginning of a long line of cipher
machines that ended with the Enigma I
— M4 that were used by the German
Armed Forces during WWII.
Over the years, the general understanding of the model names and
designators of the various Enigma machines, has changed several
times. For a long time, it was assumed that the machine described
on this page — i.e. Die schreibende Enigma
— was known as the
Enigma B, but from archived documents it has meanwhile become clear
that Enigma B was one of the first lamp-based Enigmas
It seems likely that the first two printing Enigma machines did not
have a single-letter model name.
At present, no further information about Die schreibende Enigma
If you have any information that is not already on this page,
please contact us. We would also like to know whether any
samples of this model have survived, so that they can be researched further.
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Sunday 13 September 2009. Last changed: Sunday, 27 January 2019 - 11:05 CET.