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Hagelin cipher machines

In 1921, Boris Hagelin developed his first cipher machine whilst working for crypto-company Damm in Sweden. In 1935 he produced a fully mechanical machine under his own brand name A.B. Ingeniörsfirman Teknik in Sweden. (later changed to A.B. Cryptoteknik). It was the first of a long line of mechanical cipher machines. Shortly before WWII, he developed the M-209 for the American Army. After the war the company moved to Switzerland where they traded as Hagelin Cryptos.   

Over the years, Hagelin produced numerous mechanical and electronic cipher machines. The company is still in business today and is known as Crypto AG. The model numbers of the Hagelin machines are often related to the year in which they were developed (e.g. the C-35 was developed in 1935). Furthermore, a B is added before the model number if the unit has a keyboard.

Hagelin machines featured on this website:
B-21 and B-211 B-21 C-35 C-35 C-36 C-36 C-37 C-37 M-209 (CX-38) M-209 BC-39 (motorised version of BC-38 / M-209) BC-38 C-446-A and C-446(RT) C-446 C-52, CX-52, BC-52 and accessories CX-52
TC-52, a hybrid on-line cipher machine TC-52 BC-543, the successor to the BC-38 BC-543 CD-57 hand-held cipher machine CD-57 HC-520 CRYPTOMATIC electronic hand-held cipher machine HC-520 HC-530 CRYPTOMATIC portable electronic cipher machine HC-530 HC-570 CRYPTOMATIC desktop electronic cipher machine HC-570 CRM-008 CRYPTOCOM - Voice Crypto Unit CRM-008 HC-3300 Secure Crypto Phone HC-3300
HC-4220 Fax Encryptor HC-4220 HC-2203 PSTN Phone Encryptor HC-2203

B-21 and B-211
The B-21 was the first cipher machine developed by Boris Hagelin. He designed the machine in 1921 when he was working for the Damm brothers in Sweden. Physically, it resembles the Enigma machine but internally it scrambles wires in a 5 x 5 matrix, controlled by 4 pin-wheels.

The machine was thought to be more secure than the Enigma, but this was not the case.

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Early B-21 machine by AB Cryptograph

The C-35 is the first fully mechanical pin-and-lug machine developed by Hagelin. It is much smaller than later machines of the same class and was initially developed for the French Army, who wanted the machine to fit the pocket of the army trousers.

In November 2008 we had the opportunity to take some detailed photographs of this machine from Crypto AG's private Hagelin collection.

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The C-36 is one of the first mechanical pin-and-lug machines developed by Hagelin. It is larger than the C-35 and resembles the M-209 in shape. Unlike the M-209, however, the tabs on the metal bars inside the machine are not movable.

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The C-37 is one of the successors to the C-36. It was manufactured for the French Navy by L.M. Ericsson in Colombes (France) under licence of Hagelin. The machine was also used for French-British liaisons.

In September 2009 we had the opportunity to see a C-37 for the first time when it was shown by GCHQ on the Enigma Reunion 2009 at Bletchley Park.

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Hagelin C-37 front view

C-38 and M-209
Based on the C-38, Hagelin developed the M-209 for the American Army, shortly before WWII. It's a small compact mechanical machine that remained in service until after the Vietnam War.

As the machine could be broken by the Germans in less than 4 hours, it was only used for tactical field messages. The M-209 was built under licence by Smith Corona in the USA.

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M-209 opened and ready for use

The BC-38 is in fact a C-38 that has a keyboard and is motor-driven. It is compatible with the C-38 and the American M-209 and was used during WWII by the American Army, mainly in command centres.

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Typical view of the BC-38 with the lever down

The C-446 is a typical military Hagelin machine. The machine shown here was used by the Dutch Navy and was available in two versions: the standard C-446-A and an C-446-RT. The latter used a Random Tape rather than coding wheels.

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The C-446/RT as it was used by the Dutch Navy

C-52 and CX-52
Designed around 1952, the CX-52 is probably one Hagelin's most successful mechanical cipher machines. Numerous variants were developed, such as the standard CX-52, an RT-version (Random Tape) and even an Arabic version.

The CX-52 was introduced in the early 1950s and remained in use as a backup in some countries until the late 1990s.

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The standard CX-52. Click for more information.

The TC-52 was an on-line cipher machine for teletype-based communication systems (Telex), developed between 1954 and 1955 by Crypto AG in Zug (Switzerland).

It was an improved version of the earlier T-52 machine (1951-1952) and was a hybrid between a wheel-based mechanical cipher machine (i.e. an M-209 or C-38) and a mixer machine.

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Hagelin TC-52

The BC-543 is a rather strange member of the Hagelin family. As the name suggests, it was developed around 1954. It is, however, not based on the C-52 that was developed two years earlier, but rather on the BC-38 which in turn was based on the C-38 a.k.a. M-209. The BC-543 is in fact functionally identical to the BC-38 and differs only in minor details.

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The CD-57 is a truely portable hand-held cipher machine that easily fits the pocket of, say, a coat. It was introduced in 1957 and was based on the design of the earlier CD-55. It has 6 coding wheels and is crypto compatible with the C-52.

The CD-57 was also built under licence by Hell as the STG-61.

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The portable CD-57. Click for more information.

In 1977, Hagelin introduced the HC-520 CRYPTOMATIC as part of the HC-5xx family of machines. It was one of the first fully electronic cipher machines that were developed as the successors to the H-4605. The HC-520 looks like an electronic calculator and was considered very compact at the time.

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The electronic HC-520 pocket machine. Click for more information.

The HC-530 was a portable electronic cipher machine, introduced in the late 1970s as part of the CRYTOMATIC family of machines. It was one of the successors to the H-4605 and was compatible with the HC-520 (see above).

It was usually housed in a Samsonite briefcase, or in a sturdy green military carrying case.

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The HC-530 portable electronic cipher machine. Click for more information

The HC-570 was the desktop version of the CRYPTOMATIC family and is compatible with the HC-520 and the HC-530. It cointains a thermal printer and a small single-row display.

The machine contains a built-in 5-level paper tape reader and puncher, and is mechanically protected (locked) against tampering.

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Hagelin HC-570 desktop CRYPTOMATIC machine. Click for more information

In the mid-1970s, Crypto AG (Hagelin) developed a series of voice crypto untits, aimed at both the civilian and military market. This was called the CRYPTOCOM CRM-008 product line.

The CRM-008 was introduced in 1975 and was sold well into the 1990s. This machine is sometimes identified as the Hagelin HC-230 (civilian version) or HC-235 (military version).

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CRM-008 Voice Crypto. Click for more information.

The CRYPTOVOX HC-3300 is a secure telephone set with digital encryption, developed by Crypto AG in Switzerland in the early 1990s. It can be connected to a PSTN line and is suitable for voice, data and facsimile traffic. A smart-card is used for key distribution.

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HC-3300 Secure Crypto Phone. Click for more information.

The CRYPTOFAX HC-4220 was a fax encryptor developed by Crypto AG in Switzerland in the early 1990s. It allowed facsimile messages to be sent securely by any Group 3 fax unit via standard PSTN (analogue) telephone lines, at speeds between 2400 and 14,400 baud.

The HC-4220 was available from 1994 until 2002 when it was replaced by its successor the HC-4221, that is still available today (2011).

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HC-4220 Fax Encryptor. Click for more information.

The HC-2203 is a PSTN telephone encryptor. It was introduced in the early 2000s, and can be connected between any ordinary telephone set and an analogue telephone line (PSTN).

It is compatible with the HC-24x3 secure GSM phone and is still available from Crypto AG in Switzerland today (2011).

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HC-2203 Phone Encryptor. Click for more information.

Swiss Army Knife
This is a genuine Swiss Army Knife with the Hagelin logo on its side. It was probably a gift from Crypto AG to their customers.

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

  2. 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.

  3. Hans Stadlin, 100 Jahre Boris Hagelin 1982-1992 (German)
    Crypto AG. Crypto Hauszeitung Nr. 11. Jubilieumausgabe September 1992.

  4. Crypto AG, Crypto Magazine 2009, number 1
    Retrieved August 2009.

Further information

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