The cryptosystems of the past can be categorized into two types: codes and ciphers. Although semantically identical words in modern parlance, codes refer to languages and ciphers refer to secret methods of writing. For instance, a code may be an agreement that ``mother, how are you'' means ``the jig is up!'', while a cipher may involve changing A to B, B to C, and so on. For example, ``Jung qb lbh uvqr?'' is decoded to ``What do you hide?'' by advancing each letter 13 times. Both of these forms of message obfuscation can potentially be unbreakable, however almost all practical implementations of contemporary cryptography are possible to break.
Precipitating the 1980s rise of computers and information technology to prominence, ciphers in the 1940s became unconstrained by traditional human limitations. Advancements in ciphers created cipher machines that seemed unbreakable. The German Enigma and the Japanese Purple are popular examples of this trend toward mechanical cipher devices that seemed flawless, but ultimately were not. While Enigma was based on a commercial product, the realm of cryptography remained relatively isolated to large, special interest groups. The main players in this conflict between the power of secret messages and that of reading them were constrained to the governments of the world. This would soon change.
In 1991, Phil Zimmerman released a program called Pretty Good Privacy. PGP is a free cryptosystem designed for public use. Despite this, it was and still is fairly complicated for the average person, and so the public has not directly benefit from the release of this program. The indirect benefit, however, is that the release of PGP marked the opening of the floodgates of public use of cryptosystems.
As a result, today, securely ordering goods over the Internet is common; so is protected passwords and files. Consumer cell phones have gone from unencrypted analog transmissions to encrypted digital signals. Encryption today has become pervasive, however in most cases it benefits entities other than the general public, such as private corporations. Because most uses of encryption by the public today primarily benefit business and government interests, the main stakeholders in the control of private cryptosystems are still a vocal minority and not the public at large.