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ENIGMA MACHINE HEADS FOR AUCTION BLOCK

 

By Culturekiosque Staff

NEW YORK, 5 SEPTEMBER 2015 — Two machines that, in their different ways, played key roles in modern history are to be sold at Bonhams History of Science and Technology sale in New York on 21 September. A fully operational Apple-1 computer (lot 77) in near perfect condition is estimated at $300,000–500,000 and a fully operational early German Enigma machine (lot 73) carries an estimate of $160,000–180,000.

The two machines are connected by the mathematician Alan Turing, subject of the Oscar winning film, The Imitation Game. Turing is perhaps best known for his work on deciphering the Enigma code during World War II, as well as for being the father of computers, having first introduced his invention of a universal computing machine in his groundbreaking paper "On Computable Numbers."

Enigma machine

From the mid-1920s, the German military used Enigma machines to encipher its communications. The low serial number on this machine indicates that it was made in the 1930s when the Germans were secretly building up their armed forces in violation of the restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the First World War. The Enigma code remained unbreakable until Turing and his colleagues at Bletchley Park, building on the work of a Polish code breaking team, deciphered it in the early 1940s. At the end of the war, the retreating Germans destroyed many of their machines and Winston Churchill ordered the destruction of those in British hands. Surviving Enigmas in good condition are scarce; those that are still operational, are extremely rare.

This fully operational machine is not only in excellent condition, it also retains the original rotors whose serial numbers match that of the machine’s reflector. These were designed to be fully interchangeable and it is unusual to find them with the machine for which they were manufactured.

Apple-1

The Apple-1 was the first pre-assembled personal computer to come to market. After Steve Wozniak had demonstrated his breakthrough design at the Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto in 1976 he and school friend Steve Jobs obtained an order from Byte Shop for 50 assembled boards – this example is one of those first 50 to be made. Although 200 boards were eventually made only 66 survived, the others having been lost, destroyed or broken up to construct Apple IIs. This fully operational Apple-I is in outstanding condition and is one of the finest we have ever seen. It has been described by Apple expert, Corey Cohen, as "in near perfect condition." In the early 1980s, having been used only once or twice, it was traded for a new NCR personal Computer at Tom Romkey’s ‘Personal Computer Store’ in Florida. Mr Romkey put the Apple- I on a shelf and did not touch it again.

Bonhams Director of History and Science. Cassandra Hatton commented, "These two rare machines share a fascinating and significant bond through Alan Turing whose notes on mathematical notation and computer science sold at Bonhams New York in April this year for over $1million. Bonhams also holds the world record at auction for an Apple-I motherboard of $905,000 set in October 2014, as well as for a 3-rotor Enigma machine, at $269,000 in April 2015. Both the Enigma machine and the Apple 1 are in excellent condition and work as well as on the day they were constructed."

BOOK TIP



Alan Turing: The Enigma
By  Andrew Hodges

Paperback: 768 pages
Princeton University Press; Updated edition with a New preface by the author  (November 2014)
ISBN-10: 069116472X
ISBN-13: 978-0691164724
$16.95


 



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