Douglas Ramsey was a teenage friend of Kitty Pryde, who, as Shadowcat, is a superhumanly powerful mutant currently a member of Excalibur. Ramsey shared Pryde's interest in computers and video games and they became close. Pryde's expertise with computers was a result of her own natural (but not superhuman) genius in that area. However, Ramsey had a particular knack for deciphering both human and computer languages that was a result of a particular mutation with which he was born.
Both Professor Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men and the New Mutants, and Emma Frost, the White Queen of the Hellfire Club, learned that Ramsey was a mutant. Frost offered Ramsey a scholarship to her Massachusetts Academy, hoping to induct him into the Hellions, the team of adolescent superhumanly powerful mutants she trained there to serve the Hellfire Club's secret criminal purposes. Ramsey went to the Academy for his final admissions interview, accompanied by Pryde, who suspected the Hellfire Club's intention in recruiting her friend. At the Academy the White Queen captured Pryde, who was rescued by the New Mutants. Ramsey did not end up attending the Academy after all.
Although Ramsey became a friend of the New Mutants, he did not know that he and they were mutants, and they concealed their superhuman powers and costumed identities from him.
Finally, one night when both Xavier and the X-Men were away from the mansion that served as the base for both the X-Men and the New Mutants, the techno-organic alien being known as Warlock arrived and, confused and terrified, found himself battling the New Mutants. Seeking to communicate with the alien, the New Mutants summoned Ramsey and revealed their costumed identities to him. Ramsey succeeded in initiating communications with Warlock, and shortly afterwards both Ramsey and Warlock became members of the New Mutants. Ramsey was code-named Cypher, after his ability to decipher languages.
Cypher was a mutant with a superhuman facility for translating languages, spoken or written, human or alien in origin. His superhuman skill also extended to his great facility in deciphering codes and computer languages. Cypher's skills were such that he was once able to make great headway in translating the written language of an extraterrestrial race in a matter of minutes.
Cypher's mutant talent for translating differed from the translating ability that a human who is a genius in this field, yet not a mutant, possesses, even though both people might achieve the same results with any given translation problem. Cypher's mutant talent was an intuitive one which worked on a subconscious level, and which may in part be related to telepathy. A non-mutant human, even a genius, would have to work out a translation consciously, step by step. Rather than working the problem out step by step, in his conscious mind, Cypher instead subconsciously solved the problem. Hence, Cypher could reach the correct solution by means that appeared to be leaps of logic, and he himself may not have been consciously aware of the entire process by which he reached the right answer.