In 1992, author William Gibson released a book titled Agrippa (a book of the dead), which played from a 3½-inch diskette on a 1992-era Apple Macintosh computer running the System 7 OS. It was a poem that ran upscreen and whose text was programmed to disappear after its first reading, by way of a special encryption program that encoded each line of the full work.

Few of the original diskettes remain, but the University of California, Santa Barbara has an emulation of the original program and, with it, a new site called Cracking the Agrippa Code hopes the bright minds of the internet will be able to do just that.

To win you must submit a technical description of your cryptanalysis ... under Creative Commons usage rights (the results of which will be used to further research on Agrippa). The technical description should explain what kind of encryption is used (if any), how it functions, and how it was reversed or cracked (and what the key is, if there is one). Should there be no encryption at all (a possibility), or should the application merely "scramble" or "destroy" the data, this must be technically demonstrated or proved.


The contest's site provides a number of resources to help ambitious code-crackers get started. Whomever is first to successfully crack it will receive a copy of every Gibson book eer published (except Agrippa, of course); runners up will have their name posted to the site, in recognition of their efforts.

So... erm, what better way to beat this outrageous summer heat than to stay inside, at your computer, puzzling over a decades-old, yet-uncracked code!? [TheVerge]