Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Codes and Ciphers

I have always been fascinated by secret messages and deciphering these message. When I was 12 years old I used to play games sending messages written in invisible ink.
This all started when I was watching Chandrakanta, one of the most watched television series on Doordarshan ( Uttar Pradesh board exams had one question from this series, well I don’t remember the year, may be 12 yrs back).

The king (Pankaj dheer) in the series accidentally picks a parchment in the bedroom, which was meant for her wife. The parchment has nothing written on it, but ironically the parchment flies to the fireplace and words surfaces on the parchment. This parchment was written with citric acid from the lemon. The first time I tried this with the extracts from onion, then with lemon, they all worked but most of the time, I burned the papers because I didn’t had any other means of heating the paper except for fire. Later I discussed this with my science teacher and she asked me to try it with a hair drier. It really works well….

You may think, why am I talking about invisible ink and stuff in codes and ciphers, well they are all interconnected. The main aim was to send message to other person, without revealing the content to anyone else.

In olden days in the Greek and Roman countries, the literate people used to send written message, it was in itself a hidden message because most of the people were illiterate but what about hiding it from the literate ones? Then they came up with different methods.
They created hieroglyphic messages understandable only to sender and the receiver.

Hieroglyphs are symbolic representation of anything. The ancient Egyptian languages are hieroglyphic, there are hieroglyphs in the pyramids and the Mayan buildings. When people started understanding hieroglyphs, the elite people created coded messages.

Some of them are columnar transposition cipher, commonly known as caeser’s box ( It wasn’t created by caeser, but to honor one of the first people on earth to use coded message was it named that way). The other methods are vigenere cipher and the tricode and lot more.


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