Talk:History of cryptography

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edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for History of cryptography:
  • Illustrate. (Should be easy enough to find various pictures from more specific articles).

Timeline[edit]

A rough timeline to be incorporated once it becomes substantial. Those noted with a # are particularly significant for crypto development (this would be useful to the beginner, if perhaps controversial to agree to):

  • c. 500BCE - Hebrew use of the Atbash cipher (simple shift substitution)
  • c. 400BCE - Spartan use of scytale (alleged)
  • c. 400BCE - Herodotus reports use of steganography in reports to Greece from Persia (tatoo on shaved head)
  • c. 50 bc - Caesar cipher
  • 1466 - Leone Battista Alberti invents polyalphabetic cipher, also first known mechanical cipher machine
  • 1553 - Belaso invents Vigenère cipher
  • 1585 - Vigenère's book on ciphers
  • c 1645 - Wilkins' Mercury (English book on crypto)
  • c 1750(?) - Swedish count invents very advanced mechanical cipher machine $
  • c 1800 - Thomas Jefferson invents cipher disk machine -- reinvented approx 100 years later by Etienne Bazeries
  • 1809-14 George Scovell's work on Napoleonic ciphers during the Peninsular War
  • 1854 - Wheatstone invents Playfair cipher
  • c 1854 - Babbage's method for breaking polyalphabetic ciphers (pub 1863 by Kasiski)
  • c 1915(?) - Friedman applies statistics to cryptanalysis (coincidence counting, etc)
  • 1917 - Deciphering of Zimmerman telegram, major cause of US entry into WWI
  • 1917 - Vernam develops first practical implementation of a teletype cipher; with Mauborgne contribution became one-time pad
  • 1919 - Weimar Germany Foreign Office adopts (a manual) one-time pad for some traffic
  • 1919 - Hebern invents/patents first rotor machine design -- Damm, Scherbius and Koch follow with patents the same year
  • c 1924 - MI8 (Yardley, et al) provide breaks of assorted traffic in support of US position at Washington Naval Conference
  • 1932 - first break of German Army Enigma by Rejewski in Poland
  • c mid 30's - Friedman/Frank Rowlett invent first versions of what became SIGABA $
  • 1940 - break of Purple by SIS team
  • c 1940-45 development of mathematical theory of cryptography by Shannon, also proof of one-time pad unbreakability $
  • 1942 - partial break into Dec 41 edition of JN-25 leads to successful ambush at the Battle of Midway
  • 1942/43 - first programmable digital electronic computer (Colossus) developed to assist in attack on German teleprinter 9Fish) ciphers (eg tunny -- Lorenz machine)
  • c 1947 - first break into Soviet one-time pad espionage traffic from 41-42
  • 1949 - Shannon's Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems pub in Bell Labs Technical Journal
  • 1974? - Horst Feistel develops Feistel network block cipher design
  • 1976 - Diffie and Hellman publish New Directions in Cryptography
  • 1976 - release of DES/DEA design by NBS
  • 1978 - first public release of RSA
  • 1980 - release of PGP by Zimmerman; very high quality crypto for _anyone_ with a computer
  • 1998 - RIPE project releases final report
  • 2001 - adoption of Rijndael as AES by NIST
  • 2002 - NESSIE project releases final report / selections
  • 2003 - CRYPTREC project releases 2003 report / recommendations

J-V made a suggestion of a separate time-line article. I see arguments both ways. Comments? ww 17:46, 31 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Someone else's timeline to compare (but, of course, not to copy) can be found here: Crypto history — Matt 16:08, 17 Apr 2004 (UTC)

OK, the timeline's been in beta for long enough ;-) Any objections if I move it to Timeline of cryptography?
I hadn't seen this and went ahead and created Timeline of cryptography using material from the Wikibook. Most of the above should be merged in. --agr 04:28, 7 October 2005 (UTC) Most items (except those marked $) have been merged --agr 16:23, 7 October 2005 (UTC)
A whole lot more could be said about the early history please seeKahn, David (1996). The codebreakers: the story of secret writing. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780684831305. Retrieved 9 September 2010. J8079s (talk) 19:14, 9 September 2010 (UTC)

Rowlett link[edit]

In this talk page, there is a link for Rowlett that doesn't look like a link for the numbering system. I suggest we change it to a not-necessarily-existent dis-ambiguated link, as well as creating a dis-ambiguation page titled Rowlett (disambiguation) for both the numbering system, Rowlett, and the proposed link that is the better link for the word Rowlett above this message to link to. 66.245.67.166 22:44, 16 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Rowlett refers to Frank Rowlett; I've added a disambiguation header at Rowlett. — Matt 23:06, 16 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Stumbled here from peer review[edit]

Ever since Ww asked for my thoughts on the Enigma article (I think it was) a few months ago, I've been meaning to come back and provide a little help to you hard-working crypto editors. :-) Anyway, a couple of quick thoughts about this page since it has a lower MRR rating -- I think it needs a lead section, and I'd like to see modern cryptography broken into subsections (you all know what subsections would be appropriate, or at least you'll know better than I do). I think that would improve flow a great deal. I'll try and read it more closely in the next few days and offer some other thoughts if I can. Jwrosenzweig 22:28, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Thanks for the comments, it's much appreciated! — Matt Crypto 22:39, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Since when is Mata Hari Medieval?[edit]

Timeline needs to be delineated more clearly. A 20th century example should not be included under the heading of Medieval Cryptography.

Yup. Be bold and have at it. ww (talk) 08:12, 18 July 2008 (UTC)

On Fish[edit]

The Lorenz and Siemens machines (jointly Fish, and individually Tunny and Sturgeon) were attempts to do something better than a stream cypher. Given the use to which they wer put, the Germans clearly believed them to be more secure than Enigma. They were, in effect, attempts to reach one-time pad quality, though I suspect they did not have the equivalent of Shannon's unbreakability proof. So, since stream one-time pads are a special instance of stream cyphers and more secure than any, the original wording is appropriate. ww (talk) 08:12, 18 July 2008 (UTC)

Now that Tunny has been declassified by the UK, it ought to at least be mentioned in the main article—especially since the world's first digital computer was invented to deal with it.Opus42 (talk) 11:22, 7 July 2013 (UTC)

The term "classical cryptography"[edit]

I may be splitting hairs, but for all of my decades playing with ciphers and while taking courses in grad school on cryptography, I was under the impression "classical cryptography" referred to everything pre-enigma and/or pre-computer. The first paragraph of this article backs up that definition but calls it "classic" instead of "classical." The second section of this article uses a different definition for "classical" for it to mean I guess pre-medieval. Do we have a citation for this new definition? Should we stick to just using one definition?

Furthermore, the intro links to another page on "classic cryptography" that gives another definition for a "classical cipher" -- the one I was familiar with.

I consulted Schneier's Applied Cryptography and Stinson's Cryptography Theory and Practice to see what they said on the matter, but they were silent. Skintigh (talk) 18:22, 18 February 2011 (UTC)

Very questionable claims and false information[edit]

This article makes unreferenced claims that the ancient Egyptians and others used encryption. I am familiar that the Egyptian hieroglyphic system was very artistic and they would use visual metaphors (I forget the name for it... like instead of writing "son" you draw a Sun) but I am unfamiliar with this claim, and the others, and tagged them all as unreferenced.

Furthermore, the article claims cryptanalysis was invented in parallel with cryptography. If we are claiming cryptography was invented 6000 years ago, and it is a fact cryptanalysis wasn't invented until the 9th century, it is a falsehood to say "The development of cryptography has been paralleled by the development of cryptanalysis."

Skintigh (talk) 19:48, 18 February 2011 (UTC)


The article "A Brief History of Cryptography," by Cypher Research Laboratories states that Egyptian hieroglyphics on a tomb in Menet Khufu cerca 1900 B.C. contained at least "one component" of cryptography: writing altered for the purpose of concealment. I will try to add references to some of those points on the page.

Bpjuliet (talk) 20:41, 26 April 2011 (UTC)

I found references for the Mesopotamian and Hebrew cipher information as well, but I am not sure on your question about the inventions of cryptanalysis and cryptography. If cryptanalysis is the breaking of codes and people in Egypt deciphered the codes on the tombs would that not mean the discovery of cryptanalysis? Also, if codes were invented to keep information secret there must have been people who wanted information they were not supposed to have. It would be only natural for them to thus try breaking the codes as soon as they were written. By definition, cryptanalysis then must have come into being in conjunction with cryptography.

Bpjuliet (talk) 22:05, 26 April 2011 (UTC)

Alan Turing's position[edit]

User:Veerashok163 has added the following to the section entitled World War II cryptography. 'Alan Turing was a person who worked for British Army can be called as the "Father of Modern Cryptology"' This is inaccurate in that Turing was employed by the UK Foreign Office, not the British Army and his most important work was on the Enigma codes used by the German Navy.

An assertion such as that he 'can be called as the "Father of Modern Cryptology"' should be supported by an appropriate reference, if there is one. However, I doubt it. Turing is often referred to as the "Father of Computer Science" see: Why Alan Turing is the father of computer science. --TedColes (talk) 17:01, 30 September 2014 (UTC)

I agree this claim shouldn't be here (although the Enigma was used by all branches of the German armed forces, not just the Navy). Hut 8.5 17:55, 30 September 2014 (UTC)