Bruce Schneier has linked to a fascinating blog post about a recently declassified letter that John Nash sent to the NSA regarding cryptography in 1955. Nash’s letter is fascinating and show just how brilliant he actually is. It’s interesting to me how he has to try to convince the recipient that he’s not a crazy person – I guess at the time his reputation did not precede himself (or maybe it did) – and how he apologizes for his handwriting.
It hadn’t occurred to me that at the time more correspondence was probably done by hand-written letter than typed letters, especially if you did not have a secretary to type it up for you. I can’t imagine leaving my boss a handwritten note these days. In fact, in the five years that I’ve worked at UCSC, I’m not sure that I’ve ever sent any of my co-workers a handwritten note. I take hand-written notes at meetings just to avoid the distraction of having a full laptop during the meeting, but I usually immediately convert the handwritten notes to an e-mail or request queue ticket and then file the paper away, probably never to look at it again.
At any rate, the blog post does a good job of explaining why the letter is extraordinary, so I won’t bother regurgitating that here but I definitely recommend reading it.