In our many online discussions of the Zodiac’s ciphers, I’ve often needed to create pictures of symbols or pieces of the cipher text to illustrate a point. This became tedious after a while, so I created the “Zodiac Typewriter” to make this task simpler.
The Zodiac Typewriter gives you a quick way to string together a set of symbols to save as HTML (for blogposts and web pages), or as BBCode (for forum posts). It also generates hyperlinks so you can share your chunks of cipher text. This is so much faster than creating homemade, custom images. For example:
Here’s how to use it:
First, enter some text into the input box:
As you type your text, the generated cipher text image will appear below:
Each of the available cipher symbols is displayed in a table, along with the corresponding letter you can type to use it. The symbols come from the 408, 340, 13, and 32 character ciphers:
To use a symbol, enter its corresponding letter into the input box. Or, while your cursor is in the input box, click on one of the symbols. If you enter an unrecognized letter, a red question mark will appear.
If the table of symbols gets in your way, click the “hide” button.
Click the “lighter” button to make the cipher text gray. You can then click the “darker” button to make it black again. Maybe we’ll make this thing support more colors in the future.
When you’re happy with the cipher text, you can share it in several ways. One option is HTML, which is simply a collection of image tags that link directly to the images for each symbol. Click the “show html” button and you’ll see the HTML source. Copy and paste it to your blog post or web page and you’ll see the cipher text.
Another sharing option is to use BBCode for forum posts. Click the “show bbcode” button and you’ll see the bbcode necessary to reproduce your cipher text in a post. It is a collection of image tags, just like the HTML source. Simply copy and paste the BBCode into your post.
Finally, you can link directly to your cipher by clicking the “show links” button, which will generate hyperlinks for your cipher text. The “Full” link will open your cipher in the full Zodiac Typewriter interface. The “Compact” link opens a page that displays only your cipher.
Michael Cole has a great recent post on his site concerning the flood of web traffic again generated by the interest in Corey Starliper’s debunked claim of a solution to the 340-character cipher. Michael’s indictment of shoddy journalism is spot on.
If Corey Starliper walked into your office and announced that he had cured cancer, would you write the story: “Tewksbury Native: I’ve Cured Cancer” without seeking input from a medical professional? If he walked in and claimed to have solved one of math’s currently unsolved problems, would you write the article without doing something to evaluate the validity of his claim? I hope the answer to those questions is “No.” But, for some reason, if he walks in and says he’s solved a cipher that’s remained unsolved for the last 40 years, the Tewksbury Patch has no problem publishing an article without doing anything in terms of evaluating the probability that his solution is actually correct. His solution is garbage, pure and simple. Point me to one person with real cryptographic expertise who endorses Starliper’s solution. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you cannot because I’m fairly certain one does not exist.
Those of us who have definitively shown Corey’s solution to be incorrect are often criticized for being “jealous” of him for solving the code, or for not having a solution that is better than his. What those critics fail to understand is that I would be among the first people to celebrate a real solution to any of the unsolved Zodiac ciphers, no matter who comes up with it! To be rid of another long-standing mystery would be a great relief to us all. In the meantime, there is no reason to sit back and accept unsubstantiated claims without evaluating their merit.