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The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-breaking - Simon Singh

The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-breaking

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Simon Singh

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Pages: 416 (Paperback)

ISBN: 1857028899

Pub: Fourth Estate

Pub date: 2002-05-06

Amazon.co.uk Sales Rank: 4527

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Editorial Review:


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 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

Reader Reviews:


5/5 stars

A Fascinating Book (0/0 people found this helpful)

This book combines very interesting historical situations which required secret communications with the technical information about the methods used. It is a very comprehensive book on this interesting topic, and is difficult to put down once you started reading it.

5/5 stars

Excellent read (0/0 people found this helpful)

I would recommend this to anyone. It is a perfect mix of maths, history, computing and physics all wrapped up in Simon's great narrative style. 5 stars!

5/5 stars

Educational and Fun, Too! (0/0 people found this helpful)

An excellent book with which to get an overview of some of the most commonly used, or most notorious, codes and ciphers over human history. The subject is fascinating and could get complicated if not for the author's ability to describe and demonstrate ideas in such ways as to make the book an easy read.

The inclusion of ciphers (of various levels of difficulty) for the reader to 'break' is a great (and challenging!) idea. Even though the monetary prize has long since been claimed, deciphering the puzzles is a fun way to implement the knowledge the reader has just gained from the book's text.

Fantastic treatment of the subject, both historically and practically - I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic.

5/5 stars

Really accessible (0/0 people found this helpful)

I discovered this book when I realised that it was part of the research material for Scarlett Thomas's novel 'PopCo'. It's brilliant. It's enough of an introduction to make the reader feel like they can get to grips with the history and methods of codebreaking and making, ciphers, etc, but brief enough that the reader feels that there's a whole pool of interesting things to investigate further. It's also very well written and very accessible. To be honest, thinking about maths gives me a headache, but the concepts in this book were so well explained that I felt like I could easily have a good understanding of them.
Having read this book, I would definately like to explore its topics in more depth - which I think is probably its goal.

5/5 stars

Very good (0/0 people found this helpful)

Iam doing a degree in Digital Forensics and as such encryption is a huge part. this book has been a great help, intersting to read and educational, not for the hardcore code breaker but a brilliant introduction to it, keeps the content intersting with stories of where it as been used.

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