Stu Savory's Pocket Enigma Review : Brian Hargrave's Response.

© Brian Hargrave, 2003

Dear Stu,
Mark Baldwin pointed me in the direction of your website and your review of my Pocket Enigma machine. I particularly liked your description of it as a 'toy, designed for children from 8 to 80' - absolutely spot on!
Very many thanks for such a fair assessment.

Your are quite right that the ears of the case are the weakest point and I spent some considerable time trying to find a commercial or heavy duty CD case, but without success. In the end I agreed with Bletchley Park that even if such a thing exists, the ready availability of the standard jewel case as any easy replacement and its very low cost were the overriding factors, particularly the latter.

Have a closer look at the rotor and you will see that it is not actually a cardboard disk, but is made from a matt plastic printed with special ink to give good durability. It is almost impossible to tear, much more difficult to bend than you might think at first sight, and is the most expensive of all the components. In fact, because of my worries that the card wheel of my original design would delaminate in use, it is the only item where a conscious decision was taken to go for the more expensive option.

The instruction leaflet took about as long to write as to develop the machine itself, the published edition being about Version 15 or thereabouts. Of all the sections, the one dealing with the message setting was rewritten or modified more than any other, and in the end I had to accept that this was a toy and so just a simple statement rather than a full explanation would have to suffice. The main problem was that the instructions take up the active width of the printing press to the millimetre, and just one more panel on the leaflet meant a bigger press and other complications giving a big step in cost to the extent that the instructions would then have cost more than the wheel.

Early in development I did consider double-pass machines in which coding was by tracing the path from the input letter, through the wheel pattern, around a reflector pattern, and back through the wheel pattern again to the output letter. You commented in your review that PE took about twice as long to code/decode as the real Enigma, well with the double-pass and reflector, it got very tedious after about half-a-dozen letters. The toy was no fun to play with!

Also early in development I considered putting the alphabet round the base plate in QWERTZU order to give a better impression of Enigma, and I looked at various ways of getting the effect of the plugboard. However, these all slowed down the coding and jacked up the price on the shelves above the magic fiver that BP assures me is so critical.

Finally, we are still getting the product established on the market (it went on sale only last May with a BP sales estimate of 1000/year and they have just taken delivery of their third batch of 1000, so it is doing very well indeed) but there are plans for additional rotors in the future and/or different languages. By the way, it is impossible for PE to use the original Enigma rotor wirings - a clue (not that I expect you will need it) is that the machine in the photograph on the front of PE is the Abwehr Enigma that was stolen from BP which relates better to PE than the standard machine - think about it! Even if it were possible, I found that it is also essential to restrict the geometry of the wiring pattern if it is to be easily/rapidly traced by hand.

Best regards and thanks for your review,

Brian Hargrave

PS: I attach a new photograph for you.

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