The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography Hardcover – 2 Sep 1999
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With their inextricable links to history, mystery and war, codes and ciphers offer a rich seam of material for any author. The relative dearth of non-technical books on the subject may be a reflection of its pretty technical foundations, which compel hard decisions about what to include and what to gloss over. Few are better qualified to take on the challenge than Simon Singh, the particle physicist turned science writer whose book Fermat's Last Theorem, recounting the dauntingly complex story behind the proof of this mathematical conjecture, deservedly became a No. 1 bestseller.
The Code Book contains many fascinating accounts of code-breaking in action, from its use in unmasking the Man in the Iron Mask and the defeat of the Nazis to the breaking of a modern cipher system by a world-wide army of amateurs in 1994. It is especially good on the most recent developments, such as quantum cryptology and the thorny civil liberties issues raised by the advent of very secure cipher systems over the Internet. But Singh's mathematical prowess sometimes gets the better of his journalistic instincts, leading to technical descriptions that unnecessarily disrupt the narrative flow. So buy it-- and have a shot at the 10,000 pound mystery cipher--but be prepared to skip. --Robert Matthews
‘A fascinating meander through the centuries; replete with tales of intrigue, political chicanery, military secrecy and academic rivalry.’ The TimesSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The Code Book gives the entire history of cryptology, starting with very basic substitution cypers, working all the way up to today's electronic systems. It is not, though, a reference book - it's very entertaining to read and doesn't solely focus on the science of the codes - Singh also relates stories behind codes.
Not only does he explain the codes, but also how they are broken. Singh is brilliant at making the complicated simple, and even manages to explain how the 'unbreakable' German Enigma was cracked in a way that will make you understand (at least while you are reading the book - if you try to explain it to someone else later you might get a bit muddled...)
This really is an incredible book - excellently written with a very interesting subject matter. Highly recommended.
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Singh states from the beginning that the book has two aims; to chart the evolution of codes, and to show that the study of codes and cryptology is as relevant for today as ever. Information always has had a high value, and there have been divers means employed throughout history to keep matters private where appropriate. The reasons for this secrecy are not always the same, but whether it is political, military, security or commercial, organisations and governments want to know that their information is safe, and at the same time strive to read similar matter from opponents. The history of codes and code breaking has been a struggle between the code makers, and the code breakers, with sometimes one and sometimes the other having the ascendancy. Sometimes intrigue and espionage have enabled a foothold to be gained to enable code breaking to continue.
The early use of codes and ciphers are explained well, and the author uses imaginative illustrations to convey his ideas. The chapters on modern developments, with private and public keys, for example, are brought to life with the example of mixing the colours of private paint stores.Read more ›
It's a shame, because it's a truly excellent book, and the fact it's still readable despite all the errors and omissions is a testament to Singh's talent as a science communicator, but really, if this level of sloppiness and lack of care from publishers is what we can expect from Kindle editions in the future, it is a disappointing future indeed.
The opening chapter exemplifies this with how it describes Mary Queen of Scots use of a cryptography technique and the unfortunate results it had for her when they were intercepted and eventually decoded.
Knowing little about nano technology I found this chapter near the end very difficult to follow but Singh does well to describe it in a way that did at least give me half a chance at understanding it.
The book was written to accompany his UK Channel 4 TV series; having seen only one episode of it I can say it certainly stand on its own two feet.
If you want a great introduction to this subject I can not see you doing any better than this book. I don't think you have to have a strong interest in the subject to enjoy it. I suspect older kids could get into it easily and there's examples to try on his web site.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mr Sing is an excellent writer and this title adds further proof. History and modern aspects discussed with clarity.Published 2 months ago by Kindle Customer
Full of interesting historical stories that bring context to an often misunderstood arena. The examples are generally easy to follow although I would have preferred to have read... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Ryan Purvis
Singh truly knows how to make this topic interesting. The book is concise, well-written and presents a cohesive history of the subject (along with detailed mathematical... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Fawaz Shah
I was reading about cryptography somewhere and it recommended this book, which I subsequently purchased. Absolutely unputdownable! Read morePublished 3 months ago by D. T. Anderson
.. --. --- - - .... .. ... -... --- --- -.- ..-. --- .-. -- -.-- ... --- -. .- ... .--. .- .-. - --- ..-. .... .. ... -.-. --- .-.. .-.. . --. . -.-. --- ..- .-. ... . Read morePublished 3 months ago by Rob Franklin
asertyuiop;lgfdsxcv. Get it? I read the code book and now I wrote a message in code. Nope. Kidding. But the book will help you if youre at least a little interested in... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Anastasia
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