WW2 German Enigma machine auctioned for record-breaking price

Bletchley-baiting three-rotor code box sold for six-figure sum

The 3-rotor Enigma machine in question. Pic via Bonhams

A three-rotor Engima machine was sold for a record $269,000 at a Bonhams auction earlier this week. The machine is in complete working condition and was manufactured for the German military in Berlin in July 1944.

The Enigma machines were, for their time, sophisticated encryption devices, and were used to encrypt Morse-coded radio communications by the German armed forces during WWII.

The enormous efforts undertaken to break Enigma-encrypted messages by the British at Bletchley Park, particularly the efforts of Alan Turing, pioneered much of what now stands as the basis for computer science.

In 2012 another pristine Enigma machine sold for £85,250 in London.

Cassandra Hatton, director of history, science & technology at Bonhams said: "The results of this exciting sale confirm that the demand for scientific and technological artifacts is strong and continues to grow."

Among the other techie paraphernalia auctioned was a 56-page manuscript by Alan Turing, which went for more than $1m. Bonhams stated that the manuscript, "written in a simple notebook bought from a stationers in Cambridge, UK, is the only extensive autograph manuscript by Turing in existence."

Also sold was "a handwritten and signed letter" by the world’s first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace, that sold for $27,500. The letter, dated 1839, is addressed to the celebrated English journalist Albany Fonblanque (1793-1872) and mentions Charles Babbage.

Back in 2000, an Enigma machine was stolen from a display case in Bletchley Park. It was eventually returned after being posted, bizarrely, to Jeremy Paxman. ®

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