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Portable electronic cipher machine

The HC-530/535 was a portable electronic cipher machine, developed by Hagelin in Switzerland in the late 1970s. It was part of the CRYPTOMATIC 500 family of machines, and was among the first fully electronic cipher machines that were developed as the successors to the H-4605.
The image on the right shows the HC-535, which is the military (green) version of the HC-530. The machine consists of a standard typewriter-style keyboard and a small LCD display just above it. At the back of the machine is a small built-in thermal printer.

To the left of the keyboard is an acoustic coupler. It is linked to a built-in modem and allows a standard telephone handset to be used as an interface when sending encrypted messages over a standard telephone line.
The Hagelin HC-530 removed from it carrying case
Although the HC-530 was intended for use over telephone lines, (encrypted) messages could also be printed on paper and sent by other means. Being part of the CRYPTOMATIC 500 family, it was compatible with the smaller HC-520 and the larger HC-550 and the HC-570. For civil use, the HC-530 was usually housed in a Samsonite attaché case. For military use, a sturdy green briefcase, such as the one shown below was often used instead.
HC-530 packed in its typical suitcase HC-530 mounted inside its case The Hagelin HC-530 removed from it carrying case Close-up of the power lock Close-up of the printer lid and the acoustic coupler The printer of the HC-530 with opened lid Acoustic coupler Activation keys

Compatible machines
The HC-530 is part of the Hagelin CRYPTOMATIC family of machines and is compatible with the following family members:
  • HC-520 (Pocket version, resembling a calculator)
  • HC-530 (Suitcase version)
  • HC-550 (Desktop model, based on Siemens T-1000)
  • HC-570 (Desktop model)
  • HC-580 (Desktop model, based on Siemens T-1000)
  • HC-590
Using the HC-530
Operation of the HC-530 is very simple and straight forward, but requires some basic knowledge of the user interface of the machine. For the advanced user, the machine is usually supplied with a Quick Reference Card; a small plastic card with a number of keyboard shortcuts. In order to activate the machine, a special (secure) physical key is required (image #1 below).
The HC-530 can be operated from the mains or from the built-in battery. The battery is charged automatically when the machine is connected to the mains, even when the machine is OFF (see the red LED in image #2 below).

The machine can be turned ON by inserting the key into the lock to the right of the display and turning it 1/4 clockwise. After a short delay of approx. 1 second, the machine comes to life. If it has been off for a long time, the battery might be exhausted and the machine will require the Variable Parameters (VP) to be renewed.
Key in the ON position

The VP determines the intitial settings of the machine, such as the default input device, the output device, data speed, output formatting, etc. Entering the VP is rather simple and requires a series of numbers to be entered from the keyboard. All possible combinations are listed on the Quick Reference Card. The VP can be changed at any time by entering a special command.

The HC-530 has two modes of operation: Command Mode and Editor Mode. Once the VP has been setup correctly, the machine enters Command Mode. Ctrl-R is normally used to cancel Editor Mode and return to Command Mode. In Command Mode, all commands are combined with the Ctrl-key (control). In most cases, the command is activated by pressing the Enter-key (Return). Sometimes the command should be confirmed by pressing the Y-key (yes).
Activation keys Even when the machine is turned OFF, the battery will be charged. Key in the ON position Immediately after turning the HC-530 on, all segments of the display are briefly highlighted. Entering the Basic Key Close-up of the display Quick Reference Card

Output devices
When ciphering or deciphering an message, the resulting plaintext or ciphertext can be sent to different output devices, depending on the appropriate VP-setting or Ctrl-command. The following output devices are available:
  • Display
    Encrypted or decrypted text is sent to the display. The user can read it and (optionally) write it down. The display can show only one line of text.

  • Printer
    Encrypted or decrypted text is printed on paper using the built-in thermal printer. Encrypted text can then be passed on for transmission via another means. Decrypted text can be handed to the addressee.

  • Coupler
    Encrypted data is sent to the acoustic phone coupler and the internal modem is used to convert data into a series of tones (not available in decipher mode).

  • Serial interface
    Encrypted or decrypted text can (optionally) be sent to the built-in serial interface that is hidden behind a rubber cover on the acoustic coupler. It allows an external terminal, teletype or computer to be connected. Data speed and word format can be programmed in the VP.

Entering a text in cipher mode Display Ciphertext Display Printing the plaintext Printer Printing the ciphertext Printer Acoustic coupler Coupler Phone in the coupler Coupler The 15-way D-type connector of the serial interface Serial The serial interface connected to an external device Serial

The table below lists the various commands of the HC-530 in Command Mode. Single keys are printed bold and the return key is shown as CR (carriage return). A command sequence may have to be followed by and additional Y (yes) for confirmation (indicated in the red column).
Sequence Y Description
Ctrl I CR   Input Mode (text input from keyboard or serial interface)
Ctrl P CR   Printout (memory text unchanged)
Ctrl S CR Y Serial interface output (memory text unchanged)
Ctrl C CR   Cipher mode (output device according to VP value)
Ctrl CD CR   Cipher output device -> Display
Ctrl CP CR   Cipher output device -> Printer
Ctrl CT CR   Cipher output device -> Coupler (Telephone)
Ctrl CS CR   Cipher output device -> Serial interface
Ctrl D CR   Decipher mode (output device according to VP value)
Ctrl DD CR   Decipher output device -> Display
Ctrl DP CR   Decipher output device -> Printer
Ctrl DS CR Y Decipher output device -> Serial interface
Ctrl DC CR   Decipher Mode continuation
Ctrl A   Advance
Ctrl B CR   BASIC Key Mode (selection of the basic key)
Ctrl V CR Y VP Mode (entering the Variable Parameters)
Ctrl R   Return to Monitor (exit to Command Mode)
Ctrl X Y Reset (clear memory)
Ctrl E CR   Editor Mode (optional)
Ctrl T Y Test (optional) / space bar / P / U / Y /
Ctrl M CR   Mark polarity (coupler sends 1850 Hz tone)
Ctrl N CR   Station identification (for selective call)
DEL   Last character delete (equivalent to Ctrl-K)
WORD   Last word delete (equivalent to Ctrl-W)

Variable Parameters (VP)
# VP value 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1 Coupler output * N FEC              
2 Default output device * D P S            
3 Serial input speed * Ext 50 75 110 150 200 300 600 1200
4 Serial output speed * Ext 50 75 110 150 200 300 600 1200
5 Serial I/O polarity * I/O I/O I/O I/O          
6 Serial format * BD A2 A3 A4 A5 A6 A7 A8 A9
7 MK auto-generated * Y N              
8 BK included in cleartext * Y N              
9 Ciphertext formatting * 5 10 60            
10 Auto-processing * MEM Ctrl_S MEM Ctrl_DS MEM Ctrl_DP Ctrl_S Ctrl_DS Ctrl_DP INT Ctrl_S INT Ctrl_DS INT Ctrl_DP
11 Selective call (coupler) * N Y ID            
*) Don't care (i.e. no change), can be used when changing already entered VP values.

  1. N-Normal, FEC-Forward Error Correction
  2. Display/Printer/Serial
  3. Baud rate (bps)
  4. Baud rate (bps)
  5. Normal / Inverse
  6. BD-Baudot, A-ASCII (see below)
  7. Master Key (MK) to be generated automatically (Yes/No)
  8. Output Basic Key (BK) Bigram with clear text (Yes/No)
  9. Ciphertext formatted in 5, 10 or 60 letter groups
  10. MEM-Received message transferred into text memory (if empty)
    INT-Local process interrupted
  11. N-No, Y-Yes, ID-Caller terminal identification added to message
Similar machines
Although the Hagelin CRYPTOMATIC cipher machines are not compatible with the cipher machines of other manufacturers, the HC-530 shows great resemblance to other briefcase-style electronic cipher machines of the same era. Examples of such machines are the Philips Miniflex, the Philips Picoflex, and the Gretacoder 805.
The Philips Miniflex inside a Samsonite briefcase Miniflex Philips Picoflex Picoflex Gretacoder 805 805

  1. Crypto AG, HC-530/HC-535 user manual

  2. Crypto AG, HC530/535 Quick Reference Card

Further information

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