Am höchsten bewertete positive Rezension
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The layman's standard reference on cryptology
am 21. Oktober 1999
I first came across "The Codebreakers" in the original edition, published in the 1960s. It was a massive read, and one which I never finished in one sitting; however, a love of history, the romance of espionage and the fascination of working with mysterious information kept me going. It is a pleasure to see the book has been reissued.
Kahn does not create a textbook for the serious cryptologist; such a work would be more mathematical in approach. What he does is give, from a layman's view, a good mid-level history of the art/science of cryptology. The first chapter, covering the cryptanalytic events of Pearl Harbor, brings you in; then he goes over the history of secret writing from the days of Egyptian hieroglyphics to roughly the present day. Interesting areas include the discussion of the European "black chambers" of the 1600s and 1700s, a good talk about how rumrunners in the Prohibition days used complex code/cipher combinations to thwart the Noble Experiment, and a highly entertaining chapter on the "ciphers" that proved Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare's works.
The updated edition falls short in its attempt at updating, which is why I don't give another star to the book. The discussion of cryptography in the world of the Internet is far too thin to satisfy. This, of course, could be a function of the beast; the Internet and electronic cryptology changes faster than any book could keep up with. In addition, information on the Enigma and other areas of World War II cryptology, declassified since the previous edition, could have been added to increase understanding of this critical time. However, the remaining "classic" text is still excellent, and has served as the layman's reference on cryptologic history for thirty years.