Top critical review
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Useful, worth reading, but superseded by Konheim
on December 23, 2000
When Helen Gaines wrote this book in 1939 (and, by the way, she titled it "Elementary Cryptanalysis", not just "Cryptanalysis", it was by far the best unclassified introduction to cryptology written in English (perhaps even in any language). It is still an admirable book for anyone who wants to start learning cryptology without help; the large number of carefully worked examples and exercises make it excellent for "do it yourself." And for those who intend to make a serious study of modern cryptology, this book is still a useful assist, in the same sense that a vivid and comprehensive memory of high school algebra helps a lot when one tries to learn calculus and differential equations.
However, crytology in 2001 is as different from cryptology in 1939 as a Virginia-class submarine is from a pre-WW II sub. So, if it were me, I would start learning from Alan Konheim's book, using Gaines' book as a supplementary text for clarification and examples. Konheim's book requires one to know or learn a certain amount of math that Gaines doesn't require, but since about 1960 it has become very hard to grasp (let alone use) modern crytographic methods without at least as much math as Konheim uses, so one might just as well bite the bullet and learn it.