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# The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-Breaking

by
Simon Singh

Combining impeccable history and intriguing stories of espionage and intellectual breakthroughs, this riveting bestseller, by the author of the popular science classic

*Fermat's Last Theorem*, brings to life the secret world of cryptographers and code-breakers from Ancient Egypt to the age of the internet.Paperback, 402 pages

Published
2000
by Fourth Estate
(first published 1999)

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## Community Reviews

(showing
1-30
of
3,000)

Sep 18, 2008
Jim
rated it
5 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition

Recommends it for:
Geeks and people who like geeks.

Shelves:
pop-sci-geek

The Code Book is like geek porn. Explanations of the theories behind cryptography are woven together with anecdotes of times when code-making or code-breaking was integral to historical events. Singh strikes an excellent balance with this book. The clarity of his writing makes the explanations of the mathematics of cryptography very straightforward without dumbing them down, and the historical connections are always fascinating.

Personally, my favorite part was the section devoted to the role cry ...more

Personally, my favorite part was the section devoted to the role cry ...more

Mar 20, 2011
Eric_W
rated it
5 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
current-affairs,
spies

Singh, author of Fermat's Enigma, has even included a code to practice one's deciphering skills on. The successful cryptanalyst will win $15,000. In the appendix, he discusses other famous attempts at breaking codes, including the recent book, The Bible Code, by Michael Drosnin. This work caused quite a stir a couple of years ago when Drosnin, building really on the work of several Hebrew scholars, claimed to have discovered several prophecies hidden in the text of the Bible, a forecast of the a
...more

Maybe this is what growing up is about!

That being said, this is a very informative book about the past, present and future of cryptography. Singh takes us on a journey from ancient times where simpl ...more

Sep 05, 2013
Krycek
rated it
5 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
non-fiction-science,
non-fiction-history

I was fascinated with codes and ciphers when I was a kid. I even had a "junior spy code kit" with a bunch of cool stuff and I could send little notes to friends with secret messages like "Mr. Nutzenjammer is a dork" and "Cindy eats her boogers" and we would all congratulate ourselves with our cleverness. That's all pretty juvenile, but the ciphers included in my little spy kit were the basics in modern encryption systems and you can read all about it in Simon Singh's

*The Code Book*, an excellent ...moreEnjoyably crafted and with the lay reader in mind, I think many could enjoy this ...more

My favorite part in the book was the explanation of Quantum Cryptograph ...more

I learned that once in ancient Greece somebody shaved the head of his messenger, wrote the message on his scalp, and then waited for the hair to regrow as a for ...more

Singh delves into the story of Mary Queen of Scots and explains in an epic and intersting way about how Mary's life depended upon whether her encrypted messages were deciphered. It goes on to the key role of mathematicians in WWII par ...more

Feb 16, 2014
Scotchneat
rated it
3 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
non-fiction,
science

I'm fascinated by the history of encryption, so this book was up my alley. Singh traces the evolution of encryption techniques using stories from history to illustrate.

Singh takes care to also give more technical explanations for what's going on, and you can use the charts to try out some of them for yourself.

Just recently, there's the story of the "runic code" that was finally solved - and it turns out it was used mostly for fun (with one of the translated messages saying, simply, "Kiss me"). S ...more

Singh takes care to also give more technical explanations for what's going on, and you can use the charts to try out some of them for yourself.

Just recently, there's the story of the "runic code" that was finally solved - and it turns out it was used mostly for fun (with one of the translated messages saying, simply, "Kiss me"). S ...more

Jun 25, 2011
Jeffrey
rated it
4 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
technology,
history-military

Skillfully written and engaging history of the 2000+ year old struggle between the people who try to make messages secret and the people who try to decipher them. Singh is brilliant at creating detailed examples phrased for the general reader to demystify the math behind most modern cryptography, as well as finding historical examples of cryptography's often crucial role in world events. The only reason this book gets four stars instead of five is that it outdated... the last 10 years have seen
...more

If you at all feel uncomfortable in your knowledge of one time pad cyphers, public/private keys, or the importance of really good cryptography for average folks, please read this book! It's sadly a bit out of date, but Singh does such a brilliant job of methodically building up the complexity in cyphers though history, that you will inevitably learn a ton.

It is a little of the history of cryptography, as well as some anecdotes around it. Middle age in Britain and Scotland, World War (I and II), security in the Internet or quantum computers are some of th ...more

Most interesting was tying the development of codes to actual historical impacts of codes, ciphers, codebreaking, and cryptology. Perhaps one of the best explanations of Diffie-Hellman and RSA techniques - very understandable!

His discussion of the future of cryptography (this bo ...more

Feb 04, 2013
April
rated it
5 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
favorite-books,
recommended

I'm a fiction reader, mostly fantasy, and yet this non-fiction book captured my imagination and kept me reading late into the night. Codes, secrets, mysteries - The Code Book has it all, unfolding in compelling and fascinating true stories of the history of codes.

Very entertaining and good read, up until the last chapter, where the author passes from RSA and PGP into more complex encryption, where I completely lost interest and skipped to the appendices.

I really enjoyed the interview snippets and the historical information, as well as the biographical information on the person he's speaking about. It really adds character and dimension to the person, instead of just a name and accomplishments.

I took extensive notes and have som ...more

Of course, the subject is inherently interesting. But Singh stays away from what could presumably be some very interesting stories, and instead goes through how a variety of ciphers were invented and and exactly how they work.

This could be a very dense and confusing book, but he keeps it readable without being condescending (which many popular books like this would do).

By the time you finish this book, you'll understand RSA/PGP encryption, the ...more

topics | posts | views | last activity | |
---|---|---|---|---|

Interesting book | 2 | 23 | Jul 04, 2014 02:04AM | |

an eye-opener... | 3 | 61 | Sep 06, 2011 08:25PM |

Simon Lehna Singh, MBE (born 1 January 1964) is a British author who has specialised in writing about mathematical and scientific topics in an accessible manner. He is the maiden winner of the Lilavati Award.

His written works include Fermat's Last Theorem (in the United States titled Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem), The Code Book (about cryptogra ...more

More about Simon Singh...
His written works include Fermat's Last Theorem (in the United States titled Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem), The Code Book (about cryptogra ...more

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“the Arab scholars were also capable of destroying ciphers. They in fact invented cryptanalysis, the science of unscrambling a message without knowledge of the key.”
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“One way to solve an encrypted message, if we know its language, is to find a different plaintext of the same language long enough to fill one sheet or so, and then we count the occurrences of each letter. We call the most frequently occurring letter the “first,” the next most occurring letter the “second,” the following most occurring letter the “third,” and so on, until we account for all the different letters in the plaintext sample.”
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