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The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  22,139 ratings  ·  1,275 reviews
In his first book since the bestselling Fermat’s Enigma, Simon Singh offers the first sweeping history of encryption, tracing its evolution and revealing the dramatic effects codes have had on wars, nations, and individual lives. From Mary, Queen of Scots, trapped by her own code, to the Navajo Code Talkers who helped the Allies win World War II, to the incredible (and inc ...more
Paperback, 412 pages
Published August 29th 2000 by Anchor (first published November 3rd 1999)
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Audrey It covers up through public key cryptography and the RSA algorithm (still in use in 2018) but is missing the most up-to-date information about quantum…moreIt covers up through public key cryptography and the RSA algorithm (still in use in 2018) but is missing the most up-to-date information about quantum computers and quantum cryptography. However, it does at least mention them and explain the idea. I learned enough that I was able to understand current (2018) online articles about quantum computing.(less)
Sriram Sure! At least the basic concepts can very well be understood/appreciated

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Paul E. Morph
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Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Coming on 20 years after the book was written, it’s still quite awesome despite all our subsequent advances in cryptography.

Or rather, I should say, we’re still living in the same world already transformed by pretty good encryption. The methods for breaking the security still falls in the same category as usual: interception. Of course, the means of interception has gotten amazingly good and creative as hell, but that isn’t the primary scope of this book.

Rather, it’s about an awesome crash cour
Richard Derus
May 14, 2020 rated it it was ok

The development of the telegraph, which had driven a commercial interest in cryptography, was also responsible for generating public interest in cryptography. The public became aware of the need to protect personal messages of a highly sensitive nature, and if necessary they would use encryption, even though this took more time to send, thus adding to the cost of the telegram.

When I awoke from my coma, I realized: 1) sesquipedalian verbiage needs must be read while fresh and hal
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
By far the best and the most interesting book on the subject. recommended to anyone interested in Cryptography and its history. I read it in three days mainly because I couldn't put it down.
Stefan Kanev
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I recently watched The Imitation Game, which left such a bad taste in my mouth, that I wanted to clean it up with something in a similar subject. Having read two of Sighn's other books, I picked this one.

I had high expectations and it met them nicely. The book tells the story of ciphers and encryption through history – from what the Greek and the Romans did, through the Enigma, and finally to RSA. The style is very easy and pleasant to read, everything is pretty understandable even if you don't
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: microhistories
I haven’t had this much gleeful delight in a book in a long time. This book is pure fun. It’s not fast reading necessarily, and requires some active engagement to keep up, but man, it is a blast. If you read a lot of spy books as a child, or if you’re secretly jealous when there’s a cipher to be solved in a TV or movie plot and a character says,“Yeah, I can totally crack this if I have a few hours, let me get to work,” you’re going to love this.

Singh introduces us to famous historical ciphers a
Pallavi Gambhire
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I never thought I'd love a book about mathematics, or ever see the beauty of mathematics. My mother was definitely right when she kept pestering me to work harder on my math and argued that it was EVERYWHERE! (I had argued back saying I would be fine as long as I could perform the basic calculations!)
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
John Meo
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating introduction to the world of cryptography. It has opened my eyes to a whole new subject that interests me, and now I have spent many hours attempting to create a machine that can decrypt hidden messages. It is a wonderful and gripping tale of the history of cryptography, and presents the entire plot as a battle between the code makers and the code breakers. I was never left a little bored at parts as I occasionally am during non-fiction books because it is a continuous stor ...more
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, non-fiction, own
This is a *must* read before reading Cryptonomicon. Or maybe after, like I did.

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.
Read for the Reading Without Walls challenge, for 'a topic you don't know much about'. And even though I didn't finish it in a week, CHALLENGE COMPLETE.

I really enjoyed The Code Book. The explanations were well-done, and the history lessons amazed me, which is odd because I'm not a history fan. I learned a lot about codes and ciphers and how they work, and that was the best part of it all. I liked the writing, so I think I might pick up another Simon Singh book in the future.
Jan 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
i picked this up at my brother in law's house and started reading it, immediately went out and bought a copy....
what a FANTASTIC book...
mathematically oriented non-fiction that reads like an anthology of suspense stories...
highly enjoyable...
Gorab Jain
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2020
This turned out to be a mine of knowledge for me.

What I learnt:
1. Difference between cryptography, steganography, ciphers, encryption and decryption

2. Various ciphers and their detailed techniques - Monoalphabetic, Caesar shift, Vigenere, Pigpen, Playfair, EDLSs, Morse Code, Beale Cipher…

3. Deciphering the ancient Egyptian and Greek texts - Hieroglyphics - how Linear B was decoded, and why Linear A is still a puzzle waiting to be solved.

4. Standardization of encryption - today's popular enc
Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I thought this book would be dry and boring, but oh no! I love a good puzzle, and this history of making, cracking, and innovating secret codes was enthralling. And it gets better ... at the end of the book there are codes to try your hand out. I got pretty excited when I solved the first (and easiest one). They got harder and the book became overdue at the library so I gave it up. For about a week I had the idea that I was going to be the best code cracker ever and that the CIA would HAVE to hi ...more
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Code Book has wide appeal and is a good read for anyone who is of the polymath mindset. If you like history pertaining to computing or are interested in algorithms, it is a monumental book.

Singh may be the best science writer out there. He has that rare ability to take complex science and math topics and explain in very straightforward layman’s terms.

Zainab Moazzam
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The extent to which human brain can produce such encryptions is beautiful... all for the sake of just one thing, secrecy!
Abhishek Desikan
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
If you're looking for an excellent primer to the world of cryptography and cryptanalysis, then The Code Book, is the one you must lay your hands on.

The book can be looked at in three perspectives. At a micro level, it is a guide to the various techniques of secret writing, and how they can be deciphered. Right from Caesar's cipher to quantum cryptography, the book traces how encryption and decryption has evolved in the last two millennia, which, by itself is fascinating.

Second, it can be looke
This is the second work of Simon Singh that I have read, and in my opinion it is the greater of the two. It explores the art of ciphering codes and encryption which has developed profusely over the centuries, with alot of help from Charles Babbage and the computer.

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
Manuel Antão
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Humpty Dumpty: "The Code Book - The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography" by Simon Singh

“[ ] One-way functions are sometimes called Humpty Dumpty functions. Modular arithmetic, sometimes called clock arithmetic in schools, is an area of mathematics that is rich in one-way functions. In modular arithmetic, mathematicians consider a finite group of numbers arranged in a loop [ ].”

The two greatest hazards of the internet are pornography and security. I have no idea how thi
Bryce Holt
Apr 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Prepare to dork out with your bad self, because this book is for those of us who A) Had a code dial as a kid (like Ralphie in "A Christmas Story"), and B) Didn't get laid until at least college. The truth is, though, that Simon Singh's "The Code Book" rocks the pants. This guy's knowledge and history is astounding, and while much of it is beyond me to fully understand, I am enamored with the way the stories unravel.

Enjoyably crafted and with the lay reader in mind, I think many could enjoy this
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It gives a good description of many encryption methods used throughout history, and how they were broken. I found the history of it interesting. Can get confusing at times.
Tobias Langhoff
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a romantic view of old-fashioned, analog cryptography (and stenography). Every time I read about it, I feel like a kid again, sitting in a treehouse with the neighboring kids who make up our small detective/spy club, encrypting messages we hoped someone would care to attempt to read. If I were born a decade or two earlier, I surely would have become a ham radio operator. Recommendations for spy novels that capture this childish feeling are appreciated.

This book details the world history o
Julia Hughes
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Mr Singh manages to explain concepts that should be way beyond this thickie's level of understanding. That he manages to do so in an entertaining page turning manner is testament to his skill both as a mathematician and a writer. This book examines how from earliest history in parallel with writing, it became necessary for human kind to devise ways to send messages in code. So we learn how complex codes developed from very simple ones, and Simon explains along the way that there are ancient code ...more
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
Singh does an excellent job explaining the development and process of cryptography and cryptanalysis in easy to understand terms (except (for me) perhaps the working of the Enigma, which still is a bit of an enigma!)- in fact so easy does he make it sound that one might be tempted to believe that one can be a cryptanalyst oneself- well until on turns to practically solving problems anyway. I also liked the way he wove the explanations of the actual process and working of encryption and cryptanal ...more
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
A history of cryptography ought to have spy stories and treasure hunts and daring wartime conspiracies, which Simon Singh provides, but he grounds it all in strikingly clear mathematical and logical explanations of cryptographic methods. He tells the history as a back and forth between cryptographers and cryptanalysts, with one group having the upper hand at different points in history. With the very early ciphers, I already had a background intuition about how they might be deciphered, but by t ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clear explanations of cryptography put into a historical context.
Mario the lone bookwolf
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A journey through the history of coding, cryptography, and codebreaking.

Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

Chronologically arranged, the book begins in ancient times and describes simple forms of encryption such as shaving the head, tattooing a message, waiting a few weeks or wrapping a leather strip described with essential words around a stick of specified thickness. The further the time progresses, the more complex and wi
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
A tour de force for anyone remotely interested in cryptography. Singh has done a marvelous job of chronologically describing the art of hiding information from the Rosetta stone, to the lesser known message hiding tricks used in Queen Mary's court, followed by the Enigma machine, till the emergence of computers. He backs up the technical details with intriguing history, which only makes up for a wonderful reading experience.

My favorite part in the book was the explanation of Quantum Cryptograph
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Goodreads Librari...: Hardback edition of ISBN 3446198733 is missing details 3 9 Apr 14, 2020 06:07AM  
Interesting book 3 41 Jan 25, 2015 06:08AM  
an eye-opener... 3 66 Sep 06, 2011 08:25PM  

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Simon Lehna Singh, MBE 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 cryptography and its history),

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