In Chapter 1 of The Code Book, author Simon Signh introduces the reader to the concept of cryptography. In this chapter, Signh gives explanations for what codes and ciphers are, examples of specific codes and ciphers, and many examples in which codes and ciphers were used. Many of the examples Signh uses in which cryptography was used are from long ago and involve political and military leaders and major events in history. This begs the question of why Signh chose these examples to talk about the concealing of messages. It seems that he used them not because they are the only examples that have survived or because cryptography requires exceptional resources. I believe that Signh used these examples because he had to start at the beginning of the history of cryptography and at the same time try to sell cryptography as an interesting concept.
Signh’s goal in this chapter is to introduce cryptography and its history, so naturally he will start with early examples of cryptography. Yet he doesn’t just pick any early examples; he picks the ones that had the biggest impact on major events. The first example of hidden messages in history Signh uses is Demaratus and the battle between Persia and Greece. In this example, Demartus, a greek living in Persia, took the wax off of a table, wrote a message warning the Greeks of Persia’s plan to attack on the wood, rewaxed the table, and transported this table to the Greeks. The Greeks were able to find and read Demartus’ hidden message, allowing them to prepare for the attack. I believe that Signh used this example not to demonstrate that only a few examples of hidden messages throughout history have survived, nor to demonstrate that hiding messages requires advanced resources (all that was needed was a table), but because this example entices the reader into the subject of cryptography and explains how impactful it can be. Hiding messages is one thing, but hiding messages that change the outcome of entire wars, that is exciting and important.
Signh’s use of these examples as his first examples in his book casts meaning on what he sees as the purpose of cryptography in today's world. Sign doesn’t just value code making and code breaking for their own sake. He understands that they are, today and in the future, tools that can change history.