- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (August 29, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385495323
- ISBN-13: 978-0385495325
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (507 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
Simon Singh has produced a manuscript that not only gives one a deeper insight into the world of cryptanalysis from a historical prospective but also the men and women involved in this complex field of science through out the ages,----the brilliant people from various and varied walks of life who have contributed immensely to this science past and present . It covers the humanist aspect from those involved with their various idiosyncrasies of behavior from the selling of data to foreign powers as well as personal behavior that could cause one to be blackmailed by enemies. This book is a can of worms in many respects since it opens up to the reader a world fraught with possible invasion of privacy -one of the most fundamental rights we should all hold dear--especially in America--and what avenues we have at our disposal to solve these dilemmas.
The writing style Simon uses to explain the complex theories and problems that code breakers or code makers must use is exemplary and easily understood for the average layman--although he helps to have some advanced understanding of the sciences ---but it is not necessary in comprehending what the author conveys in this book.
I found the Appendix in the rear especially helpful in my study of the very basic science of cryptanalysis as well as his simple examples on how it all pieces together to form the whole picture.
Even though this book was written in 1999--- for those of us who are concerned about CURRENT EVENTS in this science the last chapter offers deeper insights and may be used as a springboard to investigate further developments of cryptanalysis and how we may apply it to our everyday life of sending emails, buying merchandize or researching various subjects. While the wide world of the internet has opened our vast horizons to knowledge and communications within a multitude of domains ---rest assure there is an army of cryptanalyst struggling to keep our messages and correspondence secure daily---or at least we HOPE THERE IS--or we may involve ourselves with political action to ensure our freedom of privacy?
This book doesn't read like most text books we find boring and mundane. I read it as if I was reading a fiction novel, which really helps with the comprehension of the topics presented. Ciphers and Codes presented in the book are explained very clearly, I'd almost dare say near perfectly. There are appendices mentioned where you can study items in further detail (in the back of the book).
This book, in my opinion, offers a rock solid foundation for those new to cryptology and can reinforce concepts for those that are well experienced.
I highly recommend this book, if you interested in cryptography, history, or science.