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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating
This book is really a great primer in cryptography. Not only is it a history, but it walks you through the codes as they are invented and then walks you through their desctruction as they are cryptanalyzed into being useless. What fun!

This book is half science, half history and half great story. It is 1.5 books! :D

If only more topics in CS had such...
Published on Aug. 11 2010 by Marc

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3.0 out of 5 stars FUN AND READABLE BUT A LITTLE ANNOYING
So OK, I'm one of those people that has to read the book all the way through. I can't stop reading something once I've started because then it would be like some kind of defeat or something. And with this book I had gotten into a big discussion with my brother about whether I would really read it or if I was just clicking away on Amazon at things that I might like but...
Published on Feb. 15 2001 by John P Wixted


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating, Aug. 11 2010
By 
Marc (Montreal, QC) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography (Paperback)
This book is really a great primer in cryptography. Not only is it a history, but it walks you through the codes as they are invented and then walks you through their desctruction as they are cryptanalyzed into being useless. What fun!

This book is half science, half history and half great story. It is 1.5 books! :D

If only more topics in CS had such great books.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative!!, July 25 2014
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This review is from: The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography (Paperback)
This book explains the history of cryptography clearly. It also explains how ciphers work and the difference between codes and ciphers. I have developed an interest in cryptography after the surveillance scandal,last year. This book made me even more interested in cryptography and now I have been looking for different books on cryptography. This book really opened my eyes about this subject and I hope I can contribute to the field. The only thing I didn't like about the book was the last chapter on quantum computers and quantum cryptography. Those fields are very interesting but my current capabilities limit my understanding making the reading of the chapter for me tedious. I liked appendices that delve deeper into certain forms of cryptography. I also like the further readings section and the cryptography puzzles, they are very helpful. I would recommend this book to anyone who want to know about cryptography and its impact on today's society(even though the book was written 15 years ago).
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Review Of “The Code Book” By Simon Singh, Dec 28 2005
This review is from: The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography (Paperback)
I tried reading this book five years ago when I bought it, giving up within the first 50 pages where the author started explaining how to decrypt a ciphertext. It bored me then. I’m glad I stuck through that minor hump this time around; this is an engrossing, fascinating book about cryptography’s role in history.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece!, July 17 2004
By 
Raja Mannar "rajmannar" (Richmond, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography (Paperback)
This book is truly an achievement! SimonSingh takes up a seemingly esoteric, difficult, mysterious, exhaustive subject of Cryptography (or in simple terms Coding and decoding) and backed up by exhaustive research , he has written an engrossing book; The 400page read is a fascinating journey for the reader. The journey spans a broad range and time period. The hallmark of this book apart from the wealth of information it has, is the facile style of writing of SimonSingh which doesn't smother the lay reader with verbiage or technicalities; The structure of chapters is period wise, starting with the basic codes used during the middle ages, with the advancement of monoalphabetic ciphers and then polyalphabetic ciphers (including the vignere ciphers); then the automation of ciphers which happened during WWII with the famous Enigma machine; Then comes the intresting phase of cat and mouse game between the cryptographers and cryptoanalysts, which has always happened, but took a intense phase during the WWII, primarily between the camp at BletchleyPark,London (which housed a motley crowd ranging from Mathematicians to Linguists, all in a hectic pursuit to break the German code) and the Germans. The simple explanation behind the logic of Enigma is a demonstration of SimonS's ability to express the technical in the simplest of terms.
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. Next time I buy anything from the Web, i will appreciate the technology of security which happens in the backend;
The politics of encryption between the camps for free speech vs Government control is fascinating and becomes all the more urgent in the light of 9/11 and Govt attempts to curtail and control.
Even if you have a passing intrest in science, you will find this book worthwhile to spend time on . Don't get intimidated by the term Cryptography. This is a not-to-be-missed books. There is history, politics(Zimmerman telegram; Navajova talkers;Hans-Schmidt; )I was mesmerised enough to read it twice in a month's span.
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5.0 out of 5 stars OUTSTANDING INTRODUCTION TO CODES AND BREAKING THEM, Jan. 19 2004
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This review is from: The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography (Paperback)
Simon Singh has written an outstanding introduction into cryptology (the science of codes, ciphers and decoding and decyphering). This is a book aimed at the layperson who has some interest in mathematics and linguistics. He mixes the science behind codes and cyphers with a stronhg dose of history, which puts the amazing achievements in this science in the context of changing human history.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mathematical knowledge can be critical for survival, Oct. 20 2003
By 
Charles Ashbacher (Marion, Iowa United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Cryptography does not involve large numbers of men hacking each other to pieces with swords and spears or blowing each other to bits with powder and shot. Furthermore, the most significant achievements in cryptography are often covered in layers of government secrecy that take decades to be removed. Therefore, very few know how great a role it has played in the resolution of armed conflict. Singh lays out the history of cryptography, explaining the basics of the various codes while listing where they were used.
Without question, the expertise of small numbers of code breakers has dramatically altered the course of history. The famous Zimmerman note from a German diplomat to the leadership of Mexico during World War I offered German support for Mexico reclaiming the American southwest if Mexico would declare war on the United States. The anger that it engendered in the U. S. swept away the last isolationist sentiment and precipitated U. S. entry into World War I. It was encrypted before being sent, but the code was cracked by the British, who then made the contents public.
The incredible expertise of the British code breakers in cracking German codes in World War II may have been the difference in keeping Britain fighting during those dark days when she stood essentially alone against the mighty German military. In fact, many technical historians argue that the person most responsible for Britain surviving the German onslaught was not Winston Churchill, but the chief code breaker, Alan Turing. Turing's group was able to break the German military codes, thought to be unbreakable by the Germans, and the British were then able to concentrate their forces where the threats were greatest. So accurate was the British intelligence that one of their greatest problems was deciding when not to use it so that the Germans would not learn that they were reading the messages.
In one of the most interesting stories in the book, Ian Fleming, the creator of the fictional super-spy James Bond, devised a scheme whereby the British would crash a German plane near a German ship. The British crew of the plane would then bail out and capture the German ship, capturing all the code books. The plan was ultimately scrapped, to the disappointment of Turing and his group.
The cast of characters who have been significant in the advancement of cryptography contains some very unusual people. This is best summed up by the comment Winston Churchill made to the head of the Secret Intelligence Service when he visited the code breakers at Bletchley, "I told you to leave no stone unturned, but I didn't expect you to take me so literally." Some of the pictures in the book also reinforce this view. Nevertheless, they were brilliant people, and you learn how they were able to literally conquer incredible odds. Most started with situations where the number of possibilities was astronomical, and yet with ingenuity, persistence, luck and occasionally dirt tricks, they were able to reduce the numbers down to a level where it was possible to find a solution.
This is a superb popular history of cryptography, written at a level that everyone can understand and shows a history of human conflict that is often deeply hidden from view. It also demonstrates how critical mathematical knowledge can be in the life of a nation.
Published in the recreational mathematics e-mail newsletter, reprinted with permission.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Popular science" that is accurate and easy to read, Aug. 25 2003
By 
Craig MACKINNON (Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography (Paperback)
I'm sure everyone is familiar with the idea of the "monoalphabetic cipher," wherein a message is written in code by letting one letter represent another. To the untrained eye, the resulting text looks like gibberish without any structure. This is the starting point of Simon Singh's excellent primer on the nature of codes and ciphers, and he quickly points out the inherent weakness of the monoalphabetic cipher. As fans of game shows like Wheel of Fortune know, some letters are more common than others; the cipher is easily broken by frequency analysis - the most common letters in the enciphered text are going to be E, A, and S, for example. So, in fact, the enciphered text DOES have structure, and it's there for the deciphering by a codebreaker.
The strength of Singh's book is its readability and structure. He introduces various methods of encoding information, points out the weaknesses that were exploited to break the code, then how the cryptographers came up with a new code to foil the codebreakers. Singh especially stresses the practicality of each method - there are very simple encoding schemes that are actually unbreakable, but also completely impractical for everyday use. This is especially important to the military - what good is a battlefield code if it takes too long to decode?
Early chapters are of historical interest, but also contain codes and ciphers that are very easy to understand, so the reader gets comfortable with the language and problems of cryptography. Each chapter presents a more complex cipher than the previous, and each time Singh explains it easily, even such convoluted automations as the Nazi Enigma machine. He offers some fascinating diversions into ancient language elucidation (e.g., heiroglyphics), and eventually ends with a discussion of quantum computers and quantum cryptography. This is an area especially challenging to explain to the lay reader - based on the other reviews, he has done well. This section is clear and fascinating to read. As a chemist familiar with quantum mechanics, I can assure you that the scientific facts are presented accurately, much to the author's credit.
Therefore, I highly recommend this book as an insightful, educational, and enjoyable introduction to cryptography. You will learn a lot, and will enjoy learning it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Popular science at its best, July 31 2003
By 
S. Park (Bay Area, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography (Paperback)
I read this book two or so years back ago. Recently I had a chance to delve back into some chapters and decided to write down some notes. Back then the book made me feel as if I was watching a television documentary -- I was particularly reminded of the "Triumph of the Nerds" series produced by Robert Cringely during the mid 1990s. A second reading of the public key cryptography related chapters confirmed this impression. Why so? The rhythm of the sequences. Picture the following sequence of events. A narration consisting of a brief introduction to a central figure is given, followed by an interview with that figure. The interview captures some emotion re. the critical time of "discovery," and invites some questions re. the nature of the problem the figure faced. The narrator steps in again and explains what the problem means and implicates. A momentary lapse at the apex of achievement. Enter the party that builds upon the results of the initial figure, another interview with that party, and so on.
I enjoyed the Triumph of the Nerds very much and also this book. Just as Cringely had, the author possesses a fine pedagogic instinct for technical matters, and definitely understands how to "herd" the crowd. He has made interesting a topic that may have been too technical for lay readers. I was so enthralled by this book at my time of reading that upon finishing it I immediately went out to purchase his other book, "Fermat's Last Theorem" (Singh's formula didn't quite work there, perhaps because there weren't enough contemporary parties to throw interviews at -- thus losing the dynamism present in this book -- but that's a different story).
This much said, a word of caution. This is after all a pop science book, light reading. It is difficult to imagine how a chapter about public key cryptography can be written without mentioning certificate authorities or hashing, but here is one.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy. This may very well be the pop science book of the decade.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Historical and Mathematical intrigue, June 24 2003
By 
sporkdude "sporkdude" (San Jose, Ca United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography (Paperback)
Simon Singh can describe tails of drama, history, and common mathematical sense into a great book. While most people take cryptography for granted, Singh provides historical and simple examples to illustrate it's importance to mathematics and history. He details it's use in wars, especially World War 2, and commerce. He even delves into the political ramifications of strong versus weak encryption when discussing PGP.
Singh also provides easy to understand ways on how encryption works and even more intriguing, how to break it. He shows how all various encryption algorithms are done, and then how code breakers can decipher them, both in practical and historical consequences.
In the end, he even provides a challenge for would be decipherers out there. Granted, it's already been solved, it's still education and exciting that he offered a considerable amount of money for this challenge....
All in all, it's a fascinating book that will capture anyone's imagination, even if they hate history or math.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Historical and Mathematical intrigue, June 14 2003
By 
sporkdude "sporkdude" (San Jose, Ca United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography (Paperback)
Simon Singh can describe tails of drama, history, and common mathematical sense into a great book. While most people take cryptography for granted, Singh provides historical and simple examples to illustrate it's importance to mathematics and history. He details it's use in wars, especially World War 2, and commerce. He even delves into the political ramifications of strong versus weak encryption when discussing PGP.
Singh also provides easy to understand ways on how encryption works and even more intriguing, how to break it. He shows how all various encryption algorithms are done, and then how code breakers can decipher them, both in practical and historical consequences.
In the end, he even provides a challenge for would be decipherers out there. Granted, it's already been solved, it's still education and exciting that he offered a considerable amount of money for this challenge ($15000).
All in all, it's a fascinating book that will capture anyone's imagination, even if they hate history or math.
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