Evolving beyond clay tokens, accounting was the first use of the external marks and started to take a familiar form. Along with the tamper evident clay, the Sumerians developed a kind of virtual tamper evidence. It took the form of two sets of numbers. On the front of the tablet, each group of commodities would be recorded separately -- For example on the front would be recorded 120 pots of wheat, 90 pots of barley, and 55 goats. On the reverse would simply be recorded "265" -- the same objects counted gain, probably in a different order, and without bothering to categorize them. The scribe, or an auditor, would then verify that the sum was correct. If not, an error or fraud had occured. Note the similarity to tamper evident seals -- if a seal is broken, this meant that error or fraud had occured. The breaker of the seals, or the scribe who recorded the wrong numbers, or the debtor who paid the wrong amounts of commodities would be called on the carpet to answer for his or her discrepancy.
Checksums still form the basis of modern accounting. Indeed, the principle of double entry bookeeping is based on two sets of independently derived numbers that must add up to the same number. Below, we will see that modern computers, using cryptographic methods, can now compute unspoofable checksums.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Tamper evident numbers
From The Playdough Protocols: