The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography Paperback – Aug 29 2000
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People love secrets. Ever since the first word was written, humans have sent coded messages to each other. In The Code Book, Simon Singh, author of the bestselling Fermat's Enigma, offers a peek into the world of cryptography and codes, from ancient texts through computer encryption. Singh's compelling history is woven through with stories of how codes and ciphers have played a vital role in warfare, politics, and royal intrigue. The major theme of The Code Book is what Singh calls "the ongoing evolutionary battle between codemakers and codebreakers," never more clear than in the chapters devoted to World War II. Cryptography came of age during that conflict, as secret communications became critical to both sides' success.
Confronted with the prospect of defeat, the Allied cryptanalysts had worked night and day to penetrate German ciphers. It would appear that fear was the main driving force, and that adversity is one of the foundations of successful codebreaking.
In the information age, the fear that drives cryptographic improvements is both capitalistic and libertarian--corporations need encryption to ensure that their secrets don't fall into the hands of competitors and regulators, and ordinary people need encryption to keep their everyday communications private in a free society. Similarly, the battles for greater decryption power come from said competitors and governments wary of insurrection.
The Code Book is an excellent primer for those wishing to understand how the human need for privacy has manifested itself through cryptography. Singh's accessible style and clear explanations of complex algorithms cut through the arcane mathematical details without oversimplifying. --Therese Littleton
From Publishers Weekly
In an enthralling tour de force of popular explication, Singh, author of the bestselling Fermat's Enigma, explores the impact of cryptographyAthe creation and cracking of coded messagesAon history and society. Some of his examples are familiar, notably the Allies' decryption of the Nazis' Enigma machine during WWII; less well-known is the crucial role of Queen Elizabeth's code breakers in deciphering Mary, Queen of Scots' incriminating missives to her fellow conspirators plotting to assassinate Elizabeth, which led to Mary's beheading in 1587. Singh celebrates a group of unsung heroes of WWII, the Navajo "code talkers," Native American Marine radio operators who, using a coded version of their native language, played a vital role in defeating the Japanese in the Pacific. He also elucidates the intimate links between codes or ciphers and the development of the telegraph, radio, computers and the Internet. As he ranges from Julius Caesar's secret military writing to coded diplomatic messages in feuding Renaissance Italy city-states, from the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone to the ingenuity of modern security experts battling cyber-criminals and cyber-terrorists, Singh clarifies the techniques and tricks of code makers and code breakers alike. He lightens the sometimes technical load with photos, political cartoons, charts, code grids and reproductions of historic documents. He closes with a fascinating look at cryptanalysts' planned and futuristic tools, including the "one-time pad," a seemingly unbreakable form of encryption. In Singh's expert hands, cryptography decodes as an awe-inspiring and mind-expanding story of scientific breakthrough and high drama. Agent, Patrick Walsh. (Oct.) FYI: The book includes a "Cipher Challenge," offering a $15,000 reward to the first person to crack that code.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Singh begins the history with Mary Queen of Scots and how she used a cipher to encrypt letters to her cohorts to plan the assasination of the Queen of England. Besides learning a lot of history, Singh describes the ciphers used in an easy to follow manner, using lots of useful examples.
For those with a computer science background, the book gets really interesting about two-thirds of the way in, when computers come into play for breaking codes developed during World War II. The history of DES, RSA and PGP are compelling, especially when you already know about those standards but didn’t know the history of them; and the author describes how all are implemented in layman terms; it is easy to follow if you know little mathematics, although it will make the programmer in you want to start coding the algorithms he describes.
The author has published a less technical version of the book: The Code Book for Young People: How to Make It, Break It, Hack It, Crack It.
I picked up this book because I read the author’s previous book, Fermat’s Enigma, which is a lot more technical than The Code Book, but it’s an interesting tale nevertheless; non-technical readers can skip the meaningless stuff. That book is about how Fermat’s Last Theorem was solved after almost 400 years.
I found the description and concept of DES , the breakthrough of asymmetric ciphers , the concept of public key and Private keys, digital signatures especially illuminating.
The background leading to the development of PGP by Zimmerman and its features is an highlight and very topical.Read more ›
The history in the book ranges from Roman codes through the middle ages and finally arriving to the 2nd world war and the Enigma machine. Not only is the history told in great detail, but also with some attention the reader understands exactly the process that was taken to arrive at the cyphers and their breaking. An addition portion of history told is that of the decyphering of hieroglyphics and Linear B, ancient forms of writing on which some of the tools of cryptology (especially mathematics and linguistics) were used.
Simon Singh uses a formula similar to the one he uses in Fermat's Enigma (another outstanding book for amateur mathematicians): he tells a story on a subject that is tremendously complex, but makes it simple enough so that someone who is dedicated to understanding it can at least grasp the main concepts.
This is a great book for amateur mathematicians, statisticians and linguists. It is also a great portion of our history that is seldom heard of. I highly recommend it as one of the best page turners I have read in a while.
Most recent customer reviews
Received within a few days of purchasing! A great read, the author does a great job of explaining things. I understood everything even with my little knowledge of coding beforehandPublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
A really good book which introduces the reader to cryptography by explaining what they are, how the we used in it's time and how to break it.Published 2 months ago by Franck
A real eye opener to codes and ciphers. Written in an easy style to make a complex subject understandable.Published 3 months ago by The Minker
This is an excellent book as have been all of Singh's that I've read. Lots of stimulation to follow-up in more detail. His writing is also very clear and engaging.Published 4 months ago by Dominic
Awesome read, interesting history behind some historical events. No prior knowledge of cryptography is needed to understand the material. Would recommend to buy.Published 6 months ago by Martin
Very readable by pretty much anybody. You either like puzzles or you don't. If you do, you will enjoy the insights into methodology presented here. Read morePublished 11 months ago by DDolsen
Read this book years ago, but lent it to a friend... time to read it again.
This book is well written, and given the subject, very entertaining with 'real-world'... Read more
What I expected to be a dry book on science and mathematics turned into a gripping story of creative successes and dismal failures. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Spaceweasels
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