C r y p t o l o g y
It must be that as soon as a culture has reached a certain level, probably measured largely by its literacy, cryptography appears spontaneously -- as its parents, language and writing, probably also did. The multiple human needs and desires that demand privacy among two or more people in the midst of social life must inevitably lead to cryptology wherever men thrive and wherever they write.

- David Kahn
The Codebreakers, 1967

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

- Martin Luther King Jr.
Riverside Church Speech, 1967

The Roman historian Suetonius describes how Julius Caesar used the eponymous Caesar Cipher to send military messages. Two millennia later, Caesar's bones are dust and we use ROT-13 to munge our email addresses on Usenet. What ideas will survive after we too are dust?

How did we get here? If we could walk the timeline of language and thought and logic, what would we see? Marks on the walls of a cave that evolve into modern languages. Shadows on the wall of a cave that become Plato's philosophical allegory. The Arabian Nights story of Ali Baba's cave that illustrates zero-knowledge cryptographic protocols.

And then we leave the cave with our tool-using opposable thumbs and problem-solving primate brains. Small discoveries accumulate and meld into the cornerstones of civilization. Old ideas evolve into the basis for modern cryptosystems. And through the millenia of accumulated ideas, we build more and more complex systems and we solve more and more complex puzzles.

Next : Cryptology Timeline»

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