Electronic Cipher (Enigma)

Enigma is a cipher, a machine that implements an algorithm to encrypt and decrypt messages.

On Feb. 23, 1918, Scherbius applied for his first patent for what would become the most well-known cipher machine in history, the Enigma. Initially marketed for commercial purposes the German army modified a version for military encryption in 1926.

Nazis used Enigma extensively during WWII. They believed the encryption was unbreakable.

Decrypting Enigma messages required a new type of soldier, one more reliant on pencils and slide rules than rifles. These mathematicians and puzzle solvers were stations in the nondescript Bletchley Park.

Their work, led in large part by Alan Turing, both broke the Enigma encryption and eventually led to the innovation of the modern computer.

Scherbius died in an accident in 1929, long before WWII and the widespread use of his machine.

“The intelligence which has emanated from you before and during this campaign has been of priceless value to me. It has simplified my task as a commander enormously. It has saved thousands of British and American lives and, in no small way, contributed to the speed with which the enemy was routed and eventually forced to surrender.”

Letter from Gen. (later President) Eisenhower to the workers of Bletchley for breaking Enigma, Jul. 12, 1945

Movie Camera & Projector

In 1878, Muybridge famously created high-speed moving photos, calling his machine a Zoopraxiscope. His photos illustrated how people and animals move. Eventually, Walt Disney and other animators and artists later famously used the strips to create more realistic animations.

Eventually Edison’s Kinetoscope, publicly demonstrated in 1891, was a primitive device that showed moving pictures to one person at a time. Initially, Edison did not view his Kinetoscope as a substantive invention; it was a novelty for use in carnivals.

Subsequently, the Lumiere brothers of France, built off Edison’s work to create the first genuine movie camera and projector. They patented their movie equipment, which used perforated film Feb. 13, 1895.

The brothers showed the first movies on Dec. 28, 1885, at the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris, projecting ten films. Despite their success, the Lumiere’s refused to sell their movie equipment to others, making commercialization impossible. Later, they would create an early color film company, and had a family film company that was already doing well, so they prospered financially, just not from movies.

The Lumiere’s built upon Edison’s work because Edison failed to register European patents, believing his innovation to be impractical. Therefore, Many consider the Lumiere’s the true inventors of movies since multiple people could watch at the same time. Eventually, Edison did improve his movie camera and projector and built it into a successful business.

Cash Register

Cash registers help deter theft and led to modern bookkeeping.

Ritty was a saloon owner who had problems with employee theft.

He invented and patented the cash register, calling it the “Incorruptible Cashier” and created a company to sell it.

There was little interest and he tired of simultaneously running two businesses, one manufacturing and selling cash registers and the saloon. He sold the cash register company to John Patterson in 1884 for $6,500.

Patterson renamed it the National Cash Register, or NCR. In 2018, NCR has a market cap of $3.5B. Ritty had a ferocious focus on sales, demanding his salesmen (they were all men) act professionally, wear dark suits, white shirts, and patternless ties.

NCR executive Thomas Watson was forced to resign from NCR following a criminal anti-trust scandal. Watson eventually took over a small automation company, the Computer-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR).

As CTR grew, Watson focused on research and building ever better and more powerful machines. Eventually, when the New Deal came about, his company had the only machines powerful enough to keep track of records needed for social security income, payments, and overtime reporting. Watson subsequently renamed his company International Business Machines, or IBM, and never shied away from explaining many of his management practices came from NCR.

Ritty and Patterson remained friendly as NCR grew, with Ritty often invited to NCR events and parties. Despite NCR’s financial success, Ritty never expressed any regret at selling the company, apparently preferring to operate saloons.

Besides spawning two Fortune 500 companies, Ritty’s Pony House Salon hosted an eclectic group of patrons. Buffalo Bill Cody, gangster John Dillinger, and boxer Jack Dempsey were all customers.

Image result for james ritty salon
Ritty’s Pony House Salon

Difference Engine

Babbage’s Difference Engine, funded by Lovelace, is the first modern mechanical computer. No sooner had he announced his idea than many declared it impractical or even a hoax.

Engineers eventually built a working difference engine in 2002 proving Babbage’s ideas were viable, but the engineering processes of his time were inadequate. Presently, there are working versions of Babbage’s computer.

Initially, Babbage had trouble securing employment. Cambridge eventually awarded him the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, the same chair that Issac Newton held and that Stephen Hawking would eventually hold.

“The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns, just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.”

Ada Lovelace

Presently, Babbage and Lovelace are considered parents of the modern computer age.