Link: Online bidders vie for wartime Enigma machine - Yahoo! News. Was it a computer? Was it a typewriter? Was it a code-breaking machine? Enigma was all of the above. It was before my time (yes, I am not really that old), but, while it didn't really make computations, it scrambled messages by using a combination of typewriter keys and rotors. Think of it as a manual version of a modern software based encryption system in which a public key is used to send encrypted messages, and the intended recipient uses a private key to read the message. In this case, the Germans used enigma machines to encrypt and decrypt messages at both ends. By capturing a machine, the British were able to decipher encrypted German messages; many believe that the War was shortened substantially by the intelligence intercepted. Somehow, today's software driven encryption and decryption doesn't carry the romance of this beautiful piece of antique technology. If you want to learn more about how the Enigma machine worked, check out NPR's website, at Nova - How the Enigma Works .