Puzzles and cryptograms have kept many a secret and served to keep people entertained ever since man introduced the written script. Even modern applications and computers use a version of code substituting the on/off component states with a ‘1’ or ‘0’. That is precisely why one needs to study cryptograms and understand their evolution, types and uses.
Kids love puzzles which is also an elementary kind of cryptogram. Finding solutions to the cryptogram is an intelligent exercise in the written script leading to decipher the encrypted solution. This principle is also used in encoders and decoders used for modern computer languages, artificial intelligence, machine learning and more.
So, what exactly, is a cryptogram? A puzzle in tiny pieces of text that is encrypted is called a cryptogram. The cipher used in coding for encryption is solvable and simple enough to be done by hand. There are various types of ciphers that are classic and use an application cryptogram.
There are various types
For Ex: Newspaper magazines use a different number or letter for each of the letters, and resolution involves deciphering the original letter. This type of cryptogram is called a substitution cipher. Initially, such ciphers were also used for applications though, in modern times, it is used for entertainment purposes only.
A book cipher is a type where an article or the book is used for the cryptogram code in ciphering and encryption process.
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Cryptograms were initially created for coding personal secrets and military messages. First used by the monks for entertainment and gainfully using their time in the middle-age period, it is no longer used for its original purpose. An interesting example of the early use is of the King of Wales in Gwynedd, who died in 844, giving his Irish visitors such a crypto gram and this incident is mentioned in the Bamberg manuscripts. The solution to its encryption was that Greek letters were used in place of the Latin letters during the process of transposing.
Roger Bacon, an English monk in the 13th– century, lists 7 methods of ciphering codes in his book. He also states the use of writing secrets in such methods were meant to conceal the original from vulgar persons, and persons who did not resort to it should be termed crazy.
It was Edgar Allan Poe in the 19th-century who introduced and popularized cryptograms for entertainment purposes especially used in magazines and articles. In modern times, some of the contemporary-culture examples are the puzzles in King Features syndicated-newspapers like Cryptoquote and Cryptoquip, also called the vascular cryptogram. On 2014, 28th of September, the author JM Appel challenged the public with a prize to solve the cryptogram of his ‘Scouting for the Reaper’ collection of short stories by including the cryptogram generator in the table of its contents.
Frequency analysis can help solve cryptograms that are substitution ciphers-based. They can often be cracked using the word’s letter patterns. For Ex: All 1-letter words must be an ‘a’, ‘i’ or an ‘o’. Similarly, the double letters in a word, use of apostrophes and the rule that no letter in the cryptogram is ever used as itself can help one find the solution. Some hints to its solution can also be offered to aid the puzzle-solving process.
The uses of cryptograms can be many. Before ending this interesting explanation, here’s a rather unconventional use of it. A famed cryptographer named the Zodiac Killer used 4 cryptograms which he sent to the police. Though the police tried to crack the cipher code, they could solve only 3 of them, and hence the serial killer was never caught or identified. Initially used to code messages for the military, the its use has had a colourful history and is still evolving.
In conclusion, the use of cryptography and its solutions is a skill worth learning and helps in understanding many uses of machine learning, artificial intelligence and computer applications. It is a simple way to understand the process of coding, encryption, deciphering codes and computer languages. Frequency Analysis of any data often is the key to solving difficult cryptograms.
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