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The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography Paperback – August 29, 2000
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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
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Singh has done a very nice job of demonstrating how deep an impact cryptography has on history. He opens the book by recounting Mary Queen of Scots' conspiracy to have Queen Elizabeth murdered and how she attempted to use encryption to cloak her intentions. It was a very exciting way to open the book.
Singh has found the right combination of technical detail, historical detail, and character development.
Singh's explanation of how the German WWII Enigma functioned is exceptional. He made it very easy (and fun) to understand.
Singh's last chapter is also very neat on the subject of quantum cryptography. Though I have a BS in computer science, I'm no physics genius and Singh did a nice job of making (what I consider) difficult physics concepts easy to understand and of showing how they can be applied to modern cryptography.
Although I don't know a thing about "Fermat's last theorem", I've been so pleased with Singh's writing style that I'm considering reading that book also just to see what it is all about.
If you like codes/ciphers and want to read about their impact on history without reading a thousand pages then get this book. You'll be happy you did.
Ultimately, though, it's light. The history of cryptography is enormous, and a book this size can only summarize. If you're into the history, then The Codebreakers by David Kahn is the more definitive work.
If you're more interested in the personal stories of people involved with code making or breaking, there are some excellent works, such as Between Silk and Cyanide by Leo Marks, which give you more detail of particular people or times.
If you're interested in modern-day issues with computer security and encryption, Bruce Schneier has written two outstanding books, one for the programmer and one for the layman, detailing modern cryptographic techniques and security issues.
And if you're interested in a gripping fictional work, they don't come better than The Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.
That's not to take away from Singh's book at all. It's extremely enjoyable, and it was a perfect vacation read for me. If you're not seriously into cryptography the way I am, you might not find the above books interesting, but find Singh absolutely fascinating. Recommended to anyone.
Chapter 4 deals with the war effort at Bletchley Park and the work on the Engima machine. Here Mr.Singh adds an additional dimension by providing some insight into the work of Alan Turning, the development of Colossus, the first (now reported) electronic programmable computer and the unrecognized cryptanalysts who broke Ultra and the other codes of WWII. Chapter 6 brings us up to present day cryptographic issues from RSA and PGP to philosophical issues of personal privacy in modern society with web centric commerce and online book reviews. At each step in the process Singh successfully combines the elements of a technical treatise with a human values and features. For those wanting to go a little further under the hood and look at the processes and algorithms in some of the codes mentioned in the text, several appendices at the end of the book should fill that yearning. I found the book informative and enjoyable to read.
Once I started reading I realized The Code Book was totally different. Singh takes you on a tour of the history of cryptography through the history of the world. You will find that cryptography was an unexpected key element in several historical events.
Through the entire history, Singh's writing is exceptionally clear and easy to follow. The material in the book is accessible to all levels of reader -- even those with no knowledge of cryptography.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is a really good review on the history of coding and encrypting of messages. Many examples allow the reader to fully understand how decoding secure message took place... Read morePublished 18 days ago by Marie-Eve Langevin
Easy reading, very interesting, mixing math and history, I highly recommend it.Published 18 days ago by Letestu Andre
A great book that tells the story of cryptology from the ancient times to the modern Era and many of the issues that surround making a secure encryption algorithm for the... Read morePublished 19 days ago by David
Fun reading for nerds. There are lots of entertaining historical stories and sidelights in this well-researched book on the history of cryptography. Read morePublished 25 days ago by Tony
Nearly 2 decades old at the time of this posting, but still clear, informative, and highly relevant. Recommended for anyone interested in the history of encryption.Published 1 month ago by Jonathan