Whether it’s Baby Einstein, Sesame Street, or even iPad apps, kids today begin problem solving at an extremely early age. They continue problem solving as they grow older, solving math problems, logic puzzles, and other intellectually stimulating activities. In contrast, when frequency analysis was first “invented,” only scholars had access to the academic resources and problem solving skills that a teenager would have in today’s time. In my opinion, the idea of frequency analysis is easy to think of once one has the ability to actually perform frequency analysis. The reason frequency analysis may have been so obscure is because there were significantly fewer people with the required level of mathematical ability. But by today’s standards, this level of ability might equate to that of a middle school student. This disparity of knowledge attests to the intellectual progress that our society has achieved over these many centuries.
Similar to most innovations, frequency analysis developed out of necessity. Only scholars thought of frequency analysis because they were the ones breaking ciphers for powerful men and women. The average amateur cryptanalyst in the present time will also be in a situation where he or she wants to decipher a text (with much lower stakes). To help them break the cipher, both history’s scholar and today’s amateur might use frequency analysis; the intellectual leap is fairly simple. The major challenge of inventing frequency analysis centuries ago was reaching the point of having the knowledge to think of this technique. Singh described the minimum level of scholarship required for cryptanalysis as “sufficiently sophisticated.” In today’s context, that same level of scholarship would best be described as sufficient – for a 12 year old.
Image: “Rubik’s Cube”, by me