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Code Breaking: A History and Exploration Paperback – October 31, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Astrophysicist Kippenhahn (One Hundred Billion Stars, Princeton Univ., 1993) attempts to introduce the general reader to the history of cryptology, with much of his book covering the events and intrigue surrounding World War II and the German cipher machine known as Enigma. Sadly, Kippenhahns use of narrative prose with stodgy technical jargon leaves the reader with neither a good story nor hard science. The documentation used in the text is sparse at best, and the annotated bibliography contains a mere handful of titles; no glossary of terms is included. Though a generous selection of illustrations is sprinkled throughout, this in no way offsets the inherent weaknesses of the volume. Not recommended.Dayne Sherman, Southeastern Louisiana Univ., Hammond
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Scientific American

He has assembled what is more a collection of anecdotes and explanations than a standard history book, but it makes for interesting and hugely informative reading. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books (October 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585670898
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585670895
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,401,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Mr. Kippenham has written a thoroughly enjoyable book! I've read a great many books on Cryptology, and while his book won't make you an expert, it gives descriptions and explanations superior to many other "beginner texts". In fact, the explanation of the mathematics involved in RSA encryption is the most lucid and easy to understand that I have yet read. Much of the book is a rehash of some other good crypto books like "Decrypted Secrets" and Beutelspacher's "Cryptology", but at least Kippenham puts it all together in an easy to understand style. For a more comprehensive history while still an enjoyable read, try Simon Singh's "The Code Book", the book that started me on my expensive journey of "collecting" crypto books, and if you're still interested, David Kahn's "The Codebreakers" is the holy grail of Crypto history, but a bit more dry. BEWARE. . .you may get hooked like me.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. Mr. Kippenhahn's use of historical antecdotes and relating each technique to its predecessors allows anyone -- technically minded or not -- to be drawn into his unfolding story. The fact that he presents the mathematics in an easy to understand yet thorough manner makes it especially enjoyable for readers who want to understand each principle. Having read it from cover to cover, I intend to read it again, and spend more time on a few techniques that I brushed over on the first read.
If you enjoy puzzles, or technology in general, or wish to understand the techniques that are making electronic banking a reality, read this book.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books on Cryptography that I have read. One of the best features of the book is the long detailed discussion about the "Enigma" machine of World War II. A lot of really suprising revelations about who REALLY broke that code system. How every encoding system works and how they are cracked are also discussed. Amazing how most code systems are very insecure. The book was great but a little dry to read, which I suspect has to do that it was translated from German. The examples are mostly English so it is easy and fun to read.
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Format: Hardcover
I wanted to understand cryptology, with enough math behind various techniques and yet I don't want to be bored with the details. This book delivers.
The entertaining historical stories are icing on the cake and make it hard to put down.
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Format: Paperback
It is very difficult to find a book on the subject of Cryptology which does not go into great detail about the math, forgoing the necessary context to understanding. I have read many book on the subject and wish I had read this one first, if not early on.

Kippenhahn has accomplished that which others haven't. Providing the historical context based upon a particular crypto advancement. Instead of the entire history of the subject, he provides sections of chapters which focus on some aspect of the history, not for history sake, but to have the reader understand a particular advancement or application of cryptology.

By understanding, I'm talking about providing a lot of visual material. Monalphabetic maps, key tables, turning grilles, Vigenere tables, and others. All of these are very clearly displayed and understandable by any student or adult. He also provides simple "schematics" for cipher machines (switches and lights), which again give you the context to then understand (conceptually) what is behind Enigma machines and the like.

He introduces symmetric and asymmetric systems, such as DES and RSA respectively. First conceptually, then with a bit more detail behind it. His discussion on RSA includes an appendix which explains the math to mere mortals. Actual example keys are derived using two examples. If you're interested in why the math "works" you'll need to refer to another source. This shows the process for creating N, E, and D, the keys which support an RSA keyset.

An introduction to the application of some of the techniques in the book include some theoretical banking examples, and smart cards.

In summary, unless you already have an advanced understanding of the subject matter and math, I strongly encourage you to obtain and enjoy this quite readable 260 page book. You'll finish it fairly quickly and have enough of an understanding of the field to delve deeper if you wish - but won't have to.
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By A Customer on June 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
this book was one of the most amazing and comprehensable books that I have ever read. The author gives a detailed description to every example he brings up, I read it from cover to cover and learned some amazing methods to decode messages
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Format: Paperback
I'm not sure why a previous review written by me on this book showed only one star, but that is an error. This is a 4-star book. Here is my previous review:
Mr. Kippenham has written a thoroughly enjoyable book! I've read a great many books on Cryptology, and while his book won't make you an expert, it gives descriptions and explanations superior to many other "beginner texts". In fact, the explanation of the mathematics involved in RSA encryption is the most lucid and easy to understand that I have yet read. Much of the book is a rehash of some other good crypto books like "Decrypted Secrets" and Beutelspacher's "Cryptology", but at least Kippenham puts it all together in an easy to understand style. For a more comprehensive history while still an enjoyable read, try Simon Singh's "The Code Book", the book that started me on my expensive journey of "collecting" crypto books, and if you're still interested, David Kahn's "The Codebreakers" is the holy grail of Crypto history, but a bit more dry. BEWARE. . .you may get hooked like me! Then the American Cryptogram's Classic Crypto Book Service or Aegean Park Press (both of whom specialize in Crypto books) will be "collecting" some of your money!
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