Carl Nelson is backing Man over machine, relying on
traditional cryptanalysis, reinforced by meticulous field research which he
believes vital. to any code breaking.
Computers waste time on what he calls "garbage in and
Thomas Jefferson invented
cipher wheel in 1790s when encoding was popular.
Reprogramming is just as hard as working on the ciphers by
hand, he finds, as he grinds away in the basement office of his Arlington,
Virginia, home, covering hundreds of yellow legal pads with thousands of number
and letter grids.
In the end, he adds, "the human eye is still better than
a computer at recognizing certain patterns and frequencies.
Nelson's passion is unbroken ciphers. "I just can't leave
them alone," he confesses. He combats cipher addiction by limiting his work
on the mystery to the winter and taking time out for another job by cracking the
musical tonal scale system used in Jerusalem in the year 2 B.C. with the idea of
using it to compose a musical score for the Dead Sea Scrolls.
One of the pitfalls of a multi-key, multi-alphabet cipher
similar to Beale's is that it is sometimes possible to obtain an intelligent
message depending on the documents used as keys. As with some cryptograms, there
can be different solutions, but only one correct one.
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