It’s time again for our bimonthly meeting. We’ll be meeting at Rudolphs Bar-B-Que again starting at 18:30 (6:30 p.m.).

I thought that it would be fun to take a step back. Way back. I’m talking about 1,500 BC when the first known example of cryptography was made. This example was a tablet written in cuneiform, the first known writing system, and contained an encrypted recipe for pottery glaze. How did the author encrypt the data? First, he used cuneiform sign in their least common syllabic form. Second, he left out the first consonant of several signs. Third, he used multiple spellings for the same word. With today’s technology, breaking such a cipher would be trivial. But back in the day when literacy was a rare thing it was effective cryptography.

This week will be the first part in a multipart series on the history of cryptography. Why am I covering the history of cryptography if ancient cryptographic systems aren’t effective by today’s standards? Because although ancient systems are ineffective today, they are simple enough to learn and therefore make a good foundation for learning about modern cryptographic methods.

How did the ancient Mesopotamians protect their secrets? How did the Incan people secretly exchange information with lengths of string? How did Julius Caesar exchange information with his generals without the enemy intercepting his messages? All this and more will be discussed at this week’s meeting.

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