Steven Levy: Hackers and Crypto
Many years ago I read Hackers for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it. Levy takes exhaustive research and interviews and weaves them into a great tale. I like reading about the people behind technology and how they came to do what they did, and this book is full of characters and their stories: “The Heroes of the Computer Revolution.” Starting with the origins of hacker culture at MIT in the Tech Model Railroad Club, I felt transported back in time and was absorbed by the story.
A month ago, I saw a reference to Levy’s Crypto, and I immediately ordered a used copy from Amazon. This is a story about how we finally got good crypto outside of the NSA. Having just started it, I’m finally learning something about those Diffie and Hellman guys, and more about the Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman in RSA. All nicely placed in the context of the times.
One sign that it’s a good book is that I’ve read through 100 pages out of 350 in just a few days. For my usual pace on paper books these days, that’s very fast. Again Levy takes all this information and creates a compelling tale. Since there isn’t a lot of action in these books, I can only credit it to the author’s skill that I want to keep turning pages.
I’m guessing many readers of this blog are familiar with Hackers and maybe Crypto also. But if you haven’t heard or given them a chance yet, I highly recommend both books if you want to get some history of the people behind the “computer revolution” and public key cryptography. (And Crypto really is about the people, thankfully, and not the mathematical nuts and bolts which are way beyond me.)