Cryptologic Bytes

"On This Date in History" Calendar

1952: Inventor Edward Hebern died.

Friday, February 10, 2023

10 February 1952: Edward Hebern, who developed an electric coding and decoding machine, died.

The Hebern machine frequently attracts attention at the Museum. Hebern's invention were the first to embody the wired rotor principle of encipherment. His first rotor machine, pictured here, was made of solid brass and employed a single rotor that worked in conjunction with an electric typewriter. The machine was made before 1920 in Hebern's machine shop in Oakland, CA.

A bit of trivia for you - guess where Mr. Hebern was when he came up with the idea of his electric rotor machine......according to folkore, he was in prison for horse thievery!

The National Cryptologic Museum has two very rare five-rotor Hebern cipher machines in its collection. The Hebern Electric Company built what is acknowledged to be the first five-rotor cipher machine in the 1920's (a number of others were designed independently about the same time). Although this machine was never widely manufactured or used, it is cryptologically significant as part of the overall evolution in U.S. manufactured rotor devices. We believe these two five-rotor machines are the only two that have survived. Financial assistance to acquire the Heberns came from an anonymous donor.


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