Richard Bondi

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Vulgar Net Neutrality


This is a very simple story from 2014: A government agency tried to make a law, failed, and is now trying again. The end.

If that sounds too boring, you can also tell it like this: A government agency is trying to destroy the Internet, and here is what you must do to stop it RIGHT NOW!!!

I read that story recently. I’m an engineer at one of those big Internet companies, so naturally I was interested: if it’s true, I might soon be out of a job. If you are reading this in 2014, you must have heard the story as well. It has been in the headlines, and is pretty exciting. It has villains, heroes, money, power, the entire planet, an apocalypse, it’s actually pretty easy to understand, and… Wait, I forgot.

You see, if you’re a computer engineer, it isn’t any of those things. I heard the story over and over, and I thought to myself: “That just doesn’t make any technical sense

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James H. Ellis’ proof that asymmetric cryptography is possible

In 1987 James H. Ellis wrote a short, classified history of how the RSA cipher was secretly invented inside GCHQ three years before it was re-invented at MIT by Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman.

In his note, Ellis described how he first came to suspect that asymmetric cryptography might be possible, and how, after he had failed repeatedly to develop an asymmetric cipher, he came up with a formal proof, in 1970, that such a cipher definitely was possible. This resulted in a feverish and highly classified effort within GCHQ to invent one, a hunt which ended some years later when Clifford Cocks discovered what we now know as the RSA cipher. RSA was re-discovered some three years after that at MIT by its three eponymous (re-)inventors, changing cryptography for ever.

Ellis’ note was declassified by GCHQ in 1994 and posted online.

When read today in 2014, the proof makes no sense at all.


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How Bitcoin Works

 How Bitcoin Works: A Guide for the Digitally Perplexed1

Suddenly in 2013, the word was everywhere: sometimes as “Bitcoin”, sometimes belittled as merely “bitcoin”. Bitcoin was used to buy a $130,000 luxury car, praised in solemn US Congressional committee hearings, but banned in China even as ATMs for it spread around the world. Its price on unregulated exchanges soared and plummeted wildly, from almost nothing to over $1,000 a coin. The number of businesses and institutions that accepted it surged, but nobody seemed to know whether the new currency was headed for an ignominious crash and oblivion, or whether instead it would be remembered as one of the defining inventions of the twenty-first century.

Why Bitcoin works, why so many people are willing to accept it in lieu of established currencies, is a psychological question and, in that sense, an unanswerable one; and, anyway, most

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