Sunday, November 13, 2016

Tatjana J. van Vark at Secret Communications 2

The Crypto Museum and the Foundation for German Communication and Related Technologies again teamed up to present their second Secret Communications exhibit. This unique and meanwhile international event brings together the finest pieces of historical crypto and covert radio equipment, some of which has never been on public display before (non-exhaustive list here). I visited the opening day, but the collection can be visited two three (!) more days in the coming weeks. Due to its immense success, there will be an additional exhibit on January 14!

This year, they have the honour of receiving Tatjana Joƫlle van Vark, a Dutch lady who is impossible to introduce in a few words. On November 12 she gave a demonstration of her amazing hand-crafted Cryptograph machine and we were fortunate to talk with her. She will give a second demonstration on December 3.

Although inspired by the German Enigma Machine, the Cryptograph is quite different and more complex in mechanical design. Her machine includes encryption of letters, digits and punctuations, a printer and paper tape puncher and reader.

Tatjana explains the mechanics of the Cryptograph

Some call it a Super Enigma, but I prefer to see it more as a piece of art work. Tatjana is a lady that strives for perfection and beauty. The sophistication and attention to detail are a crucial part of all her projects and the hallmark of her work and philosophy. From the tiniest metal parts, over tidy packed wiring to the shiny instrument panels, it all breaths perfection.

The Cryptograph. An art work of electro-mechanical design and beauty

Personally, I believe that somewhere along the line we lost the desire to create beauty in every-day items. Everyone knows those old radios, from little design pieces to beautiful wood crafted receivers, but also the gracious curves of kitchen machines and other household items, all produced with excellent and durable materials. This craftsmanship and design has almost become a lost art. Sadly, today's products in simple plastic boxes are often a hymn to cheap mass production.

Not so with Tatjana J. van Vark! Her projects arise from her imagination and are shaped and developed solely in her mind. She doesn't use technical drawings or plans and works straight from her memory! She has what we can call a beautiful mind, supplemented with skilled hands that put raw materials into all kinds of precision parts, assembled into devices that are no longer simply functional objects but true pieces of art. The true art of creating things.

The Cryptograph printer. Perfection as only to be found in scientific instruments

Talking about Enigma, Tatjana is above all an enigmatic person. Her interest in scientific instruments as a child evolved into scientific work for technology firms, government and military. Her work includes such a wide range of science and technology that can only be explained by her drive to understand and learn all and everything. Power systems, electronics, telephone switching, instruments for the pharmacy industry, aircraft avionics, radar and weapons control, navigational equipment, optics. You name it, she did it.

She explained to me that you can create anything, as long as you learn enough and think enough about it. Now that's the spirit of a true explorer. I can only end with admitting being really jealous of that lady's talents.

You will have another chance to meet Tatjana J. van Vark and her Cryptograph on the last day of the Secret Communications exhibition on December 3. If you can't make it to the exhibition, then you should visit Tatjana J. van Vark's website and her amazing collection of home brew instruments with many amazing photos (make sure to click each image for more details) or visit her page at the Craftsmanshipmuseum. The short documentary Myth of a Magistra (incl subtitles) shows some of her extraordinary work.

Much more to discover at Secret Communications 2

More information about the unique Secret Communications 2 exhibition, its amazing list of displayed items and directions to its location near Amsterdam in the Netherlands at this link. Be advised that roadworks are in progress near the exhibition and alternative directions are available.

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