Top 5: Most Important Codes

Where will Hammurabi and his code end up on the Top 5?

This post really came to me in  the middle of a boring AP European History PowerPoint. We were discussing shifts in codes of law when it hit me, “You know, ‘code’ can mean a lot of different things.” And they can – as they are represented in this post. We will present five different codes – codes of law, codes of speech, codes of technology – in my skewed view in terms of their order of importance.

On that note, here’s our #5 Most Important Code, which is…

Use of the Navajo Language. And perhaps a map on the Declaration of Independence.

5. The Navajo Code

Well, this one isn’t exactly a code, but it served as one. While languages such as Choctaw and Comanche were used in World War I, and there was a failed attempt to use Basque in World War II, the Navajo codetalkers are among the most famous and most successful. Using a language the Pacific Theater had never heard before, the complex grammar and use of unique nomenclature for ordnance and other terms proved to be unbreakable. While the Allies (specifically the British) would crack the Nazis’ Enigma code, the Navajo code remained infallible.

4. Justinian’s Code

Also known as “The Code of Civil Law,” Justinian’s Code was not written, but compiled – more resembling English Common Law than a full-fledged Constitution – from 529 through 534. However, it became the major resource for civil law from the Byzantine Empire onward. While the code was, well, Byzantine – Jews had second class citizenship, paganism was punishable by death –  the concept of compiling law for all to see was re-established by Justinian’s Code, although it was first formed by…

3. Code of Hammurabi

Further Draconian than most law codes ever established since – with virtually every crime punishable by death or some other form of corporal punishment (“If anyone brings an accusation against a man, and the accused goes to the river and leaps into the river, if he sinks in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river proves that the accused is not guilty, and he escapes unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.”) – it was most important as the oldest-preserved written law code. Carved into stone in cuneiform in 1790 BCE, it also represents the idea of traditional laws being unchangeable, even by a king – the concept of a constitution.

2. Code Napoleon

Broken up into five different codes of law – regarding property, acquisition of property, penal law, civil law, Commercial Code, and Code of Criminal Procedure – the Napoleonic Code was a full 180° from the time of Louis XVI fifteen years prior: instead of a system of law that could change on a dime and had double- if not triple-standards, the Code Napoleon set up an equal system for all people. For the first time in France, people were given equal legal rights across social classes, and shows that Napoleon wasn’t such a bad guy after all (although he had a mean temper).

But the #1 post doesn’t deal with law at all, as it’s…

1. Binary Code

Wikipedia in binary code.

How this post is written, how young men and (some) women play Call of Duty twelve hours a day, how that awesome graphic is shown – all deal with binary code. With just the numbers zero and one, incredibly long and complicated bit strings can be formed to lead to bytes, kilobytes, and -byte things with really awesome prefixes, creating programs, graphics – everything under the sun. Binary code has allowed us to share data at incredibly fast speeds – and of course, blog.


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