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AB Cryptograph
Early predecessor of Crypto AG

Aktiebolaget Cryptograph, or AB Cryptograph – commonly abbreviated to Cryptograph – was a Swedish limited company (Ltd), which developed and marketed cryptographic machines (crypto), founded on 21 July 1916 and liquidated in 1930. The company was owned by various investors, which included Emanuel Nobel, and employed Arvid Gerhard Damm and later also Boris Hagelin. The latter took over the assets of the company in 1930 and turned it into a successful business.

The origins of the company date back to early in the First World War (WWI) – in December 1914 – when two Swedes, Olof Gyldén, a navy officer with an interest in cryptography, and Arvid Gerhard Damm, an engineer and inventor, met to discuss Damm's ideas for a new type of crypto machine. Impressed by Damm's ideas, Gyldén managed to interest a group of Swedish business men to invest in a project to exploit the ideas commercially. A patent consortium – Cryptograph – was founded in June 1915. A year later, a shareholding company with the same name was established with Gyldén as chairman and CEO. Damm, who was also a shareholder, became the engineer [2].

Expectations were great, with projected sales of 50 desktop machines and 500 handheld units per year, but the actual figures turned out to be far less optimistic. And despite the fact that Damm had meanwhile invented and designed new cipher machines, the company struggled to stay afloat. With the infusion of new money, mainly from Emanuel Nobel, the company was kept alive and continued to produce cipher machines, albeit with very limited success [1][2].

In 1922, Boris Hagelin was given an engineering job at AB Cryptograph. Boris was the son of Karl Wilhelm Hagelin, a close associate of Emanuel Nobel. In 1925, Boris became the general manager of the company and in 1928, in competition with Zählwerk Enigma A28, he managed to secure an order from the Swedish General Staff for a newly developed machine, the B-21. It was based on the ideas of Damm's B-13, but was equipped with a battery and with an Enigma-style lamp field.

Arvid Gerhard Damm died in November 1928, in Bayonne (France), but had not been involved with the company during the last years of his life. In 1930, Cryptograph was liquidated 1 and the patent rights were transferred to Hagelin's own company, Ingeniörsfirman Teknik – established in 1928 – which in 1939 was renamed AB Cryptoteknik. The company stayed in business until 1958, when the activities were transferred to Boris Hagelin's new Swiss company Crypto AG.

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Crypto AG had been founded in 1950, after Hagelin had entered into a joint venture in 1948 with competitor Dr. Edgar Gretener, with the aim to co-develop an electric cipher machine. It offered Hagelin an opportunity to be closer to the action in Central Europe and to evade the high Swedish taxes. The cooperation with Gretener didn't last, but Hagelin, who had mean­while bought a house in nearby Zug, knew that his future would be in Switzerland and decided to stay, hiring Oskar Stürzinger, Gretener's main engineer, as his first employee. Crypto AG started trading in 1952.

  1. By this time, Emanuel Nobel had already withdrawn from AB Cryptograph. He died in in 1932.

  1. Anders Wik, personal correspondence
    June 2020.

  2. Anders Wik & Kjell-Ove Widman, Damm och AB Cryptograph
    FRA historiska skrifter #27. Bromma, 2017. 40 pages.

  3. Boris Hagelin, Die Geschichte der Hagelin-Cryptos
    Original manuscript by Boris Hagelin in German language. Zug, Fall 1979.

  4. Boris Hagelin, The Story of Hagelin Cryptos
    English translation of the above. BCW Hagelin, Zug, Spring 1981. Later edited by David Kahn and published in Cryptologia, Volume 18, Issue 3, July 1994, pp 204-242.
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Crypto Museum. Created: Monday 15 June 2020. Last changed: Sunday, 05 July 2020 - 15:54 CET.
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