she as a gender-neutral pronoun (UNCLASSIFIED)

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Tue Jan 4 21:42:06 UTC 2011

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

> One of the foundational papers in computational cryptography was
> written in 1977 by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman. The
> paper introduced the RSA cryptosystem, and it used the names Alice and
> Bob. An article on the Network World website claims that the Alice-Bob
> convention began with the RSA paper. Here is an excerpt containing
> comments from Ron Rivest:
> Security's inseparable couple
> Network World
> February 07, 2005 12:04 AM ET
> RSA co-founder Rivest, who is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology
> (MIT) professor, says he came up with Alice and Bob to be able to use
> "A" and "B" for notation, and that by having one male and one female,
> the pronouns "he" and "she" could be used in descriptions. Rivest says
> it is possible that Alice came to mind because he is something of an
> Alice in Wonderland buff.
> Never did he expect the names to take on lives of their own.
> "Nor did I imagine that our proposed cryptosystem would be so widely
> used," he says.

While Rivest may have founded the use of Alice and Bob as canonical
messengers in cryptography, a quick search in google books for "Alice
and Bob" before 1977 shows that the use of the names as placeholders for
unspecified people goes before him.
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

The American Dialect Society -

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