Cryptology n. the study of codes, or the art of writing and solving them. The science of secure communications, formed from the Greek words kryptós (hidden), and lógos (word).
Cryptology and the use of codes to encrypt messages has been in use since writing was developed, and examples survive in stone inscriptions and papyruses showing that many ancient civilisations including the Egyptians, Hebrews and Assyrians all developed cryptographic systems. As early as the fifth century B.C., the Spartans employed a cipher device called a "scytale" to send secret communications between military commanders. The scytale consisted of a tapered baton around which was wrapped a piece of parchment inscribed with the message. Once unwrapped the parchment appeared to contain an incomprehensible set of letters, yet when wrapped around another baton of identical size the original text appeared.
However, it is substitution cipher that was, and still is, the most popular way of encrypting messages. The first of which, 'Caesar Cipher', was invented by Julius Caesar, and throughout the Middle Ages, many different methods of encrypting messages through substitution were used extensively, mainly by monks for 'scribal amusement'.
In later years, the many Royal courts throughout Europe also commonly used code to send secret messages, and so a more complex substitution cipher, proposed by Blaise de Vigenere from the court of Henry III of France in the sixteenth century, was created. It is simply known as 'Vigenere Cipher'.
In order to decrypt this cipher a key is needed. For example, using a simple key, the following could easily be decrypted: ANKDFEJMEICYYOXXYK. Or if you wanted, you could use a difficult key to decipher: DXTNVVYCBQBMJZKASMGQWJKVCZGPQLMBJYWI. Initially, Vigenere's invention excelled well, surpassing other used Royal ciphers. Eventually, other newer types had emerged, particularly complex...and so Vigenere's cipher was used increasingly less. By 1860 large codes were in common use for diplomatic communications, and cipher systems were only used within the military, such as during the US Civil War.
The first world war saw the creation of some very complicated cipher machines including the German ADFGVX fractionation cipher, and by the second world war a rotor concept was designed, leading the way in cryptology. From this, cipher machines such as the TYPEX, the M-134-C (SIGABA), the Japanese RED, ORANGE, and PURPLE, and of course the very famous German Enigma cipher machine were born. Nowadays of course, computers and electronics have meant an unprecedented freedom for cipher designers to use extremely complicated designs which would be far too prone to error if handled by pencil and paper.
Cryptology has a fascinating history, and is great fun! Fortunately for us, its use in geocaching is becoming more and more popular and adding even more interest into this already diverse and intriguing hobby.
Please be extremely careful and use whatever sensible equipment you deem necessary. You do not need to perform anything illegal or break any rules to obtain the cache. Good Luck!
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