The key to a really useful secret code is simplicity. Spies are busy people. They have secrets to uncover, death-defying acts to perform, and super-powerful spy gadgets to deal with. The last thing most spies need is yet another thing to complicate their lives. That’s why, if you took a poll of spies, you would find that a large majority of them, in a pinch, would rather use something simple that they can remember than something difficult that takes time, effort, and an elaborate key to encode and decipher.
In my last post I discussed substitution codes. There’s nothing more simple than a substitution code, but sometimes a secret agent might feel like exercising a little variety in her choice of codes. Just like we all like to eat something different for dinner every day (well, most of us do), most spies like to have a few options when sending secret messages. Otherwise, life can get boring.
So for the secret agent seeking variety and simplicity, let me present a code that I call The Mix-O-Matic. There’s nothing the mix-o-matic can’t do. It can slice and dice, mix and chop, blend and puree. And in the end, it is as reliable as any other secret code. Your results, of course, may vary.
Using the mix-o-matic is like making a smoothie with a blender. Take the primary ingredient, the sentence you wish to encode:
i like spumoni ice cream
Now, decide what flavor of code you want by picking a single letter from the alphabet. I have a craving for the letter “e” today, so I’ll choose that letter and I will add it to the end of each of the words in my sentence. Now it looks like this:
ie likee spumonie icee creame
Then I hit ‘blend’ and smash all the words together like this:
That sentence is already looking hard to read. I’ll make it more difficult by hitting ‘chop’ and chopping that super-long word into 4-letter segments like this:
ieli kees pumo niei ceec ream eqwr
You’ll notice that I had an extra ‘e’ at the end, so I just added a few random letters to the end. My fellow agents do that sort of thing all the time. Now, we have a pretty good secret message. We could send it like this. Or, we could make it more complicated by putting the four-letter segments in reverse order and then blending them back into a single long word like this:
Now, all another agent needs to know is the number of letters per segment (4) and the fact that I’ve reversed the order of the segments. That’s easy enough to remember, and makes for a pretty tasty secret message. Yum.