Ecolex II →
As far as we know, only one Ecolex I specimen has survived.
It is currently held in an internal collection of the Dutch
Department of Defense.
The image on the right shows a complete setup, consisting of a
Siemens T-37 teleprinter at the left, a double Siemens paper-tape reader
at the center and the Ecolex-I system itself at the right.
The large power supply unit,
was unually hidden under the table.
The Ecolex is based on the well-known principle of the
which is implemented here with no less than 69 valves.
Initially, the Ecolex I (or 'Ecolex' as it was called at the time) was
used by the Dutch Department of Defense (DoD) for military traffic,
and by the Dutch Foreign Office for diplomatic traffic at the highest
level of classification. It was later also offered to NATO and to other
NATO countries, but lost the race to the
Norwegian ETCRRM machine.
In total, only 25 Ecolex I machines were ever built .
The machine was succeeded in 1958 by the fully transistorized
One-time tape machines like the Ecolex I are in theory unbreakable
if, and only if, the keystream tape is truely random.
In practice however, the tapes were often generated by other (mainly
mechanical) pseudo-random number generators (PRNG) and were therefore
less secure. For this reason, the Dutch PTT developed its own
truely random noise generator: the EROLET.
In the years following WWII, the countries of the
Western Union (WU)
had a growing need for secure military and diplomatic communications
equipment. After the WU had been dissolved into the newly established
the need for secure communication became even more important. Initially,
only the British 5-UCO,
a left-over from WWII, was available for this,
but the British were unable to supply it in sufficient quantities to
fulfill the needs. Apart from that, the 5-UCO
was a rack-based solution
that was way too large to be of any practical use in the field.
In 1953, the Norwegian company STK
tried to fill the gap by developing the ETCRRM,
a valve-based OTT machine that was much smaller than the
and easily fitted a table top. After several improvements, SECAN
approved the ETCRRM
for use by NATO on 19 April 1954 .
Several years earlier, in 1946, the
Dr. Neher Laboratory of the
Dutch Post Office (PTT) had started the development of a One-Time Tape
machine at the request of the Dutch Government.
Due to shortages in electronic components in the first years after WWII,
it was built with approx. 100 electromechanical relays. The machine was named
and was a development of Dr. Ir. Roelof Oberman, who would later become Professor
at Delft University. A small number of these
Colex machines were commissioned
on 6 April 1949 for
communication between the Dutch Foreign Office and its embassies in
London (UK), Paris (France), Washington (USA) and Jakarta (Indonesia).
was not a fast machine – it could only handle three characters per
second – but its success resulted in the development of its successor:
Ecolex — which is short for Electronic Codetelex.
As the PTT was not interested in the commercial exploitation of the
machine, the production was transferred to
Philips Usfa, where it became
known as Ecolex I.
The machine was ready in mid-1953 and existed in
two variants: Ecolex Mark I and Mark II. 1 A description was sent to
NATO on 4 August 1953 , but it was not until 12 August of the next
year that the two machines were approved for COSMIC traffic
and for NATO traffic higher than CONFIDENTIAL .
The price for a single Ecolex Mark I unit in 1955 was US$ 6000
and for an Ecolex Mark II unit 'just' US$ 3000, 1 with a lead time of 12 and 11 months
respectively. The ETCRRM
on the other hand was produced at a rate
of 200 units per month and was available immediately at a unit price of
just US$ 1200 .
ETCRRM therefore won the race.
Ecolex I was in production until 1958,
and a total of just 25 units were built before it was succeeded
by the smaller transistorised Ecolex II.
Mark I and Mark II should not be confused with Ecolex I and Ecolex II
which are two entirely different machines. Mark I and Mark II are two
variants of the Ecolex I which was simply called 'Ecolex' back then.
The differences between the two variants are currently unknown.
Document kindly provided by Maarten Oberman .
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Thursday 13 June 2013. Last changed: Monday, 11 January 2021 - 20:13 CET.