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Pin-wheel
Hagelin
CX-52
CX-52/g
  
B-62 →
  
B-52
Keyboard unit for C(X)-52

B-52 is a keyboard add-on for the Hagelin C-52 and CX-52 cipher machines, introduced in 1956 by Crypto AG (Hagelin) in Zug (Switzerland). The device converts the manually operated one-letter-at-a-time C(X)-52 into a much faster motor-driven cipher machine, on which text can be entered like on a typewriter. This is different from earlier machines like the M-209 and C-446, of which separate keyboard-versions (BC-38, BC-543) were available. Having an optional keyboard unit makes it more versatile [B]. The combination of C(X)-52 and B-52 was known as BC(X)-52.

The device consists of a die-cast aluminium enclosure that measures 305 x 205 x 155 mm and weights 6600 grams. It has a bay in which a C-52 or CX-52 cipher machine can be installed.

At the left side is an (optional) modifier, 1 which is basically a circular bakelite connector with 26 pluggable wires that define the scrambling order of the input alphabet. Multiple modifiers were often used to allow quick renewal of the (daily) KEY at midnight. The modifier is compatible with the re-arrangeable alphabet ring on the CX-52, and should hold the same scrambled alphabet.
  
B-52 keyboard unit

The device could optionally be expanded with a 5-bit converter to make it compatible with the PEB-61 tape reader/puncher, which is not present on the device shown here. This particular unit was supplied in 1963 — together with a special version of the CX-52 — to the French Military Police, the Gendarmerie Nationale, 2 where it was probably used as part of a fixed base station. For this reason it carries an extra ID plate at the rear with the name of René Presseq de Chauny. 3 The B-52 was succeeded in 1962 by the compatible B-62, which had a modernised interior.

 Watch the B-52 in action

  1. Hagelin called it a Modifikator or Modificator, but since these words do not exists in the English dictionary, we have translated it to Modifier.
  2. Direction de la Gendarmerie et de la Justice Militaire, Sous-Direction de la Gendarmerie, Bureau technique. The Gendarmerie Nationale is one of two national police forces in France. It falls under the control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and has military as well as civil tasks. It is also responsible for the protection of the French President. The Gendarmerie is the successor to the Maréchaussée [1].
  3. René Presseq de Chauny was Hagelin's distributor in Paris (France).

B-52 keyboard unit
B-52 with CX-52 installed
B-52 keyboard unit for C-52 and CX-52
Front view
Left view
Input modifier plug
Actuators
Power section at the right side
A
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A
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B-52 keyboard unit
A
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B-52 with CX-52 installed
A
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B-52 keyboard unit for C-52 and CX-52
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Front view
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Left view
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Input modifier plug
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Actuators
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Power section at the right side

Features
Below is a quick overview of the features of the B-52. At the right is a recessed panel with the power controls and connections. It holds the mains connection, the mains voltage selector, the mains fuse, the 12V DC connection and the power switch. At the front edge is a 26-button keyboard (A-Z) of which one key has a red cap to mark the SPACE character. In this case the letter 'W' is used as SPACE. When a 'W' is required in the text, it should be replaced by 'VV' (2 x 'V').

The actual cipher machine (C-52 or CX-52) must be installed in the bay behind the keyboard. When doing this, the controls at the left side of the C(X)-52 must line up with the draving shafts of the B-52. First align the two red lines of the input letter driving shaft and set the letter dial of the (C(X)-52 to its neutral position. Then install the C(X)-52 and lock it in place. The main driving shaft is self-synchronising. The retaining bracket at the right keeps the C(X)-52 firmly in place.

Click to see more

The raised part at the left contains the complex driving mechanism, of which the driving shafts are visible in the bay. The machine shown here has a black circular plug at the left side (not visible in the image). This is the modifier that allows the input matrix to be altered, equivalent to altering the order of the letter ring on the CX-52. This feature is not available on all B-52 units.

Versions
According to the 1957 spare parts catalogue [4] and the 1961 service manual [3] there were several versions of the B-52, known as Class A, B, etc., that could be recognised by their serial number range. As the B-52 in our collection (15298) does not fit in these ranges, we assume that it belongs to the last class ('D' ?). The differences are mainly related to manufacturing changes.

  • Class A
    S/N 6101 - 6400
  • Class B
    S/N 6501 - 6999
  • Class C
    S/N 7000 - 7699
  • Class D
    S/N 7700 - ...
Options
Parts
Transit case
Keyboard unit
C-52 or CX-52 cipher machine
Modifier (modificator)
Mains cable
Cable for connection to a 12V DC source
Service manual
List of spare parts
Transit case
The B-52 was delivered in the silver-grey panzerholz transit case, shown in the image on the right. It is constructed in such a way that the hood can be removed, whilst the B-52 is left in the bottom part. It can be used in-situ. If necessary, the C(X)-52 can be left installed.

Inside the hood are two storage compartments with hinged lids, in which the power cables, the maintenance tools and the instruction booklets could be stowed.

  
B-52 inside transit case

Keyboard unit   B-52
This is the actual B-52 keyboard unit, which is bascially a bay for a C-52 or CX-52 cipher machine. It has a mechanical section at the left – which engages with the controls of the cipher machine – and a retaining bracket at the right.

The device can be powered from the AC mains or from a 12V DC source such as the battery of a car. When not in use, the B-52 was stowed in the transit case.
  
B-52 keyboard unit for C-52 and CX-52





Cipher machine   C-52 or CX-52
The B-52 was designed as a carrier for the C-52 and CX-52 cipher machines. The machine must be installed in the bay, in such a way that the driving shafts at the left engage with the knobs on the left side of the cipher machine. It is then secured with the retaining bracket at the right.

The machine can be left installed in the bay, when the B-52 is stowed in the transit case.

 More about the C-52
 More about the CX-52

  
CX-52 used by the French Gendarmerie Nationale

Modifier   modificator
The modifier is an optional expansion which allows the order of the input alphabet to be changed. It is equivalent to the re-arrangeable alphabet ring on some versions of the CX-52.

The modifier consists of a circular black bakelite unit that can be inserted into the left side of the B-52. Inside the modifier are 26 wires that are terminated at one end with a miniature plug, marked with one of the letters of the alphabet. The wires can be re-arranged in any order.
  
Input modifier taken out of the machine

Mains cable
The B-52 can be powered directly from the 110, 115, 220 or 250V AC mains network, for which an old type receptacle is present at the right side of the device. It is advised to use a wall socket with ground connection (earth).

When not in use, the mains cable was stowed in a compartment of the transit case. Note that the mains cable for the B-52 is a rare item.

 Receptacle pinout

  
Mains power cable

12V DC cable   wanted
The B-52 can also be powered from a 12V DC source, such as the battery of a car. In that case the 12V source should be connected to the 2-pin receptacle at the right side of the device.

Note that the receptacle has an index notch to ensure that the (+/-) polarity is guaranteed. When not in use, the DC cable was stowed in a compartment of the transit case.

 Receptacle pinout

  

Service manual
The service manuals of the B-52 is very rare, and was donated anonymously in November 2018 [2]. It is the July 1961 edition [C] that describes all variants that were known at the time.

The optional telegraphy interface (the blob) is not mentioned in this version of the service manual. The spare parts were listed separately.

 Download the service manual

  
Click to see more

Spare parts list
The service manual should be used in conjunction with the spare parts catalogue shown here [D]. It is slightly older than the service manual (1957) and only lists the spare parts for serial numbers up to 6999.

 Download the spare parts list

  
Spare parts list for the B-52

Transit case
B-52 inside transit case
Open transit case
Compartment for cables and accessories
Compartment for maintenance tools
Mains power cable
Spare parts list for the B-52
CX-52 used by the French Gendarmerie Nationale
Left view
Input modifier plug
Removing the input modifier
Input modifier removed
Input modifier taken out of the machine
Modifier
Modifier
Modifier - contactside
Inside the modifier
Wiring
Configurable plugs - close-up
B
×
B
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Transit case
B
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B-52 inside transit case
B
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Open transit case
B
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Compartment for cables and accessories
B
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Compartment for maintenance tools
B
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Mains power cable
B
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7 / 20
B
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Spare parts list for the B-52
B
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CX-52 used by the French Gendarmerie Nationale
B
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Left view
B
11 / 20
Input modifier plug
B
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Removing the input modifier
B
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Input modifier removed
B
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Input modifier taken out of the machine
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Modifier
B
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Modifier
B
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Modifier - contactside
B
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Inside the modifier
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Wiring
B
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Configurable plugs - close-up



Click to see more


Interior
The interior of the B-52 is divided over two compartments — one at the left and one at the bottom — that are easily accessible. The compartment at the left can be accessed by removing three large bolts: one close to the keyboard, one towards the rear and one at the bottom.

After removing the three bolts, the protective cover can be removed. Inside this compartment are the driving shafts for the cipher machine and the timing mechanics. It is driven by an electro­motor that is located in the bottom section. The image on the right provides a clear picture of the complex mechanical timing unit of the B-52.

At the heart of this section is the commutator: a circular printed circuit board with 26 contacts, and a notched pertinax disc with a wiper contact that brushes over these contacts. It ensures that the mechanism stops at the desired input letter.
  
Mechanics at the left side

When present, the compartment at the left also holds the so-called modifier, or modificator; a cylindrical bakelite unit which is installed in a bakelite recepticle that is mounted to the chassis. It is visible at the far right in the image above, and allows the input alphabet to be scrambled.

With some effort it should be possible to remove the modifier from the receptacle, by pulling its metal ring. Once the modifier is out, it can be opened by unscrewing the rounded top. This reveals a set of 26 wires inside a ring of 26 plugs, each marked with a letter of the alphabet.

The plugs can be removed from the ring and can be re-seated in a scrambled order, to mimic the operation of the re-arrangeable letter ring on the C(X)-52. If the wiring order was part of the KEY, the user would probably prepare an extra modifier with the new KEY and then swap it.
  
Configurable plugs - close-up

Some versions of the B-21 had a built-in (electromechanical) converter for connection of an external tape unit. It translates the 26 signals from the keyboard into a 5-bit digital word and vice versa. When this option present, it is visible as a bolted-on blob at the left side of the B-52.

In addition, there would be an extra connector at the rear for connection to the external PEB-61 tape unit. The option is not present on our B-52.

The compartment at the bottom can be accessed by removing six screws from the bottom panel, after which the bottom can be taken off. Inside this compartment are the mains trans­former, a 12V DC motor, a small electronic circuit, the keyboard wiring and the power connectors for connecting to the 110/250V AC mains or a 12V DC source, such as the battery of a vehicle. It also holds the keyboard release mechanism.
  
Bottom compartment

Although the B-52 is a marvel of mechanical engineering, the driving mechanism at the left is sensitive to mechanical faillure, such as a blocked or binding CX-52. In some cases this may even damage the driving cogwheels, which are extremely difficult to replace. It is therefore strongly adviced to check both the B-52 and the C(X)-52 thoroughly, and ensure that they are both running fine before powering the B-52. The later B-62 and B-621 are improved versions of the B-52, but they are nevertheless just as sensitive to mechanical issues as the B-52. Be warned!

B-52 interior
Interior - bottom view
Mechanics at the left side
Commutator
Timing unit
Timing unit and driving shafts
Bottom compartment
The two red index lines must be aligned
Motor and mains transformer
Wiring detail
Keyboard switches
Removing the input modifier
Input modifier removed
Inside the modifier
Wiring
Configurable plugs - close-up
C
×
C
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B-52 interior
C
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Interior - bottom view
C
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Mechanics at the left side
C
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Commutator
C
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Timing unit
C
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Timing unit and driving shafts
C
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Bottom compartment
C
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The two red index lines must be aligned
C
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Motor and mains transformer
C
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Wiring detail
C
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Keyboard switches
C
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Removing the input modifier
C
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Input modifier removed
C
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Inside the modifier
C
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Wiring
C
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Configurable plugs - close-up

Restoration
The B-52 featured on this page was acquired in October 2021 together with a special version of the Hagelin CX-52 cipher machine. Both devices were used during the 1960s and 1970s by the Gendarmerie Nationale — the French Military Police — who obtained them in 1963. Although they were in near mint condition, they had probably been in storage for the last 30 or 40 years.

The transit case had clearly collected a lot of dust and some of its metal works were a bit rusty, but that was easily fixed. Inside it, the foam pads that were supposed to keep the B-52 in place during transport, had desintegrated and had affected the B-52's wrinkle-painted body.

The interior of the transit case was cleaned and the foam pads were replaced. The foam residue was carefully removed from the body of the B-52 using a mild solvent, dental tools and a lot of patience. Next, a suitable power cable was made, that fits the receptacle at the right side panel.
  
Open transit case

But before connecting the machine to the local mains, it had to be checked thorougly, as other­wise permanent damage could be caused to the mechanics. The bottom panel was removed and also the cover of the mechanical section at the left side of the device, for a closer inspection.

The first thing to be noted was the corrosion on the fuses. This is in fact galvanic corrosion that occurs at places were different metals are in contact with each other. This is quite common.

After replacing all fuses (primary, secondary and spares), it was time to inspect the mechanical section at the left side of the unit. There was no damage, but the moving parts were all very dry and some of the shafts were binding somewhat.

All moving parts were treated with Gear-FLON® oil and grease — both PFTE-based products that are frequently used by model makers/hobbyists.
  
Timing unit

Next, the unit was powered up and tested. When we were certain that the B-52 was working properly, we installed a known-good CX-52 in the bay, aligned its controls and fastened the retaining bracket. The combination of the two machines – BCX-52 – was then powered up. After a fews tests we were able to encrypt a short message and decrypt it with the same rotor settings.

Fixed
  • Transit case cleaned and restored, foam parts replaced
  • Exterior cleaned and foam residue removed
  • Loose side plate refitted.
  • Mains cable made
  • All fuses replaced (corrosion)
  • Mechanics greased and oiled
  • Unit completely tested with a known good CX-52
  • Distributor tag refitted on the storage case
Missing
  • Mains power cable
  • 12V DC power cable
BCX-52 in action
Below is a short video impression of how the B-52 works. It shows the B-52 featured on this page with the original CX-52 of the French military police installed. The complete installation is known as BCX-52. The cover over the left side has been removed to show the internals in full operation.


BXC-52: B-52 with CX-52 installed at Crypto Museum



Connections
Mains power
The device can be powered directly from the AC mains, but you should always check the voltage selector first, to ensure that it is set to the local mains voltage. Below is the pinout of the mains receptacle at the right side of the device, when looking into the receptacle.

  1. 220V AC (1)
  2. 220V AC (2)
  3. Ground
12V DC
The device can also be powered by an external 12V DC source, such as the battery of a car. Below is the pinout of the receptacle at the right side of the machine, when looking into the receptacle.

  1. +12V (+ terminal)
  2. 0V (- terminal)
Specifications
  • Device
    Keyboard unit
  • Purpose
    CX-52 cipher machine
  • Model
    B-52
  • Speed
    ~ 2.5 cps (25 wpm)
  • Alphabet
    Depending on version/variant (26 or 30 characters)
  • Mains
    110, 115, 145, 220 or 250V AC
  • Battery
    12V DC
  • Fuses
    Primary: 2.5A slow (2 cm), Secondary: 3A slow (3 cm)
  • Dimensions
    305 x 205 x 155 mm
  • Weight
    6600 grams (10.3 kg with C-52)
Documentation
  1. Keyboard attachment unit type B-52
    No. 3052a. Crypto AG, Sn, January 1958.

  2. Reconnecting device (modifikator) for the B-52 electric drive
    No. 3078. Crypto AG, Boris Hagelin, August 1957. 2 pages.

  3. Service Instructions for keyboard unit B-52
    No. E-3121a. Crypto AG, Oskar Stürzinger, 12 November 1956 — July 1961.

  4. Ersatzteilkatalog (B-52) (spare parts catalogue)
    No. L-027. Crypto AG, 10 October 1957.
References
  1. Wikipedia, National Gendarmerie
    Visited 23 October 2021.

  2. Anonymous donor, B-52 service manual and spare parts catalogue - THANKS !
    [A][B][C][D] - November 2018.
Further information
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Crypto Museum. Created: Monday 25 October 2021. Last changed: Thursday, 11 November 2021 - 18:54 CET.
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