Some historical perspective

The year 1977 is often described as the year in which public-key cryptography was born. That's when "New Directions in Cryptography," by Whit Diffie and Martin Hellman was published. The people at GCHQ actually knew about the technology a few years before that, but their work was classified. That's why we now talk about the RSA algorithm instead of the Cocks algorithm. It's also why most people think of 1977 as when public-key cryptography was invented instead of 1973, when Cliff Cocks really invented it.

1977 was 32 years ago. To put that into some perspective, 32 years before that takes you back to 1945, which was when World War II was ending. This means that today we're just as close to the invention of public-key cryptography as the invention of public-key cryptography is to the end of World War II.

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