1994-04-27 - CryptScript and Other Software Tools

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From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 8c7d1883edcd0fab3ad2c5c529932375015091ec9781a61a4faccc4db0993749
Message ID: <199404270320.UAA02848@netcom.com>
Reply To: <QhjQd4200WAy8Cw1QW@andrew.cmu.edu>
UTC Datetime: 1994-04-27 03:19:11 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 26 Apr 94 20:19:11 PDT

Raw message

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
Date: Tue, 26 Apr 94 20:19:11 PDT
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: CryptScript and Other Software Tools
In-Reply-To: <QhjQd4200WAy8Cw1QW@andrew.cmu.edu>
Message-ID: <199404270320.UAA02848@netcom.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

(I'll only respond to the points Matthew Ghil made about Crypto
Toolkits and such, not to his reactions to my laundry lists of
projects and code.)

> Your point about the Crypto Toolkit is well-taken, especially in light
> of your comment about Mathematica.  We need some sort of universal
> interface that everyone can use, that is easy to understand, and have it
> be able to work with different mail packages and different systems. 

Understand that I'm in no way suggesting Mathematica syntax for these
functions and modules (though there are certainly worse choices....).
But what the developers of Mathematica (henceforth MMA) did was to
provide functional tools for scientists and casual programmers (and
nonprogrammers) that did not require them to know C or to accumulate
their own C and FORTRAN libraries. MMA mainly is a collection of more
than 1200 functions, with user-defined funtions acting as keywords.

The market success of MMA (courses at most schools, about 20 books, a
journal, etc.), and its cousin Maple (a competitor actually, but also
a cousin), not to mention MathCAD, shows a market exists for
higher-level language tools.

(However, MMA and Maple and other such products are _environments_
requiring the product to run, with sometimes cumbersome means of
hooking to outside code and resources. This rules these out for most
users, who don't have MMA or SmalltalkAgents or the like. Still,
there's _some_ chance that such tools could be used for building
standalone apps. But I would have to agree with any criticisms that
Unix and C and such are more available--now.)

There's little doubt that C is more efficient, blah blah. But the
success in using Perl to write the remailer scripts in shows that
efficiency is not always the only concern.

A lot more to be said on this whole issue. I'm not sure everyone here
is interested, though. And I detect some impatience with the very
idea that these things need discussing....the idea that "Cypherpunks
write code" seems to be interpreted by some that what we should all do
is just to sit down and start pounding out C code.

(A good idea, of course. For those with the skills and the time. But
implementing something other than another cipher, such as we've seen
several of here, is *conceptually nontrivial*. For example, suppose a
DC-Net is desired as the target. Several efforts have started, but
none has reported any significant progress. Most of the efforts seem
stillborn. There are reasons for this, I think. The old "semantic gap"
between the descriptions in papers (themselves often incomplete or
confusing) and the tools available. I shudder to think at the
difficulties in writing C code from scratch to implement even a crude
DC-Net, absent crypto primitives like bit commitment (the idea of
choosing a bit then not being able to change it....done
cryptographically, of course) and the other "tools" that are assumed
in a real-world system but which are nonexistent in C.)

> Maybe we need some kind of new interpreted (for universal portability)
> data-manipulations language, so we can write crypto tools and everyone
> could use them on every platform.  Or maybe we just need to write a

In line with PostScript and its newer cousin Telescript, I jokingly
suggested to Peter Wayner in a recent message that a crypto version of
such a crypto-protocol-oriented language be called "CryptScript." The
idea being that of a collection of tools and utilities, unified in a
language that can more seamlessly incorporate the current concepts and
protocols of modern cryptography. (Telescript itself looks

As I said in a private message to Hal Finney, I'm not at all trying to
set or focus the agenda of others. Rather, I'm just trying to focus my
own agenda through discussion. If others get something out of this
discussion, great. If they don't, at least discussion of crypto
protocols and integration with languages and tools is no more
off-topic than most discussions here.

--Tim May

Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
tcmay@netcom.com       | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
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