< Some books about computer history
Nethack Interlude >

[Comments] (1) The Enigma: This was a weird book to read because I'd already internalized much of it. It's the standard narrative of Turing's life I grew up with, and if you read it for the details you can actually see Neal Stephenson coming up with the plot for Cryptonomicon. So unlike the Licklider book I don't have a whole lot to say about this one, except that it was definitely worth reading.

One thing that jumped out of me was, reading the WWII sections, how much of the codebreaking relied not on abstract mathematical ingenuity but in ingenuity applied to exploiting the adversary's mistakes. For instance, the Germans often used a less secure version of Enigma for unclassified things like the weather report, not realizing that if Bletchley cracked the weather report they'd be 80% done cracking the secure cipher for that day. Not surprising that this got largely left out of Cryptonomicon, because fiction is usually more interesting when the adversaries are competent.

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Posted by Pthag at Mon Jan 01 2007 18:13

I thought much the same when I started reading /Never At Rest/, which is the equivalent for the parts of the /Baroque Cycle/ about Newton.

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