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So, who invented computer passwords?

A bit of trivia today but also an obituary for a man who, given you are probably reading this on an electronic device, has had more influence on your life than you would expect, given that you have probably not heard of him before.

In the 1950’s, Dr. Fernando Jose “Corby” Corbato was a physicist who got side-tracked into the then brand-new world of research computing. Realising that most people didn’t need all of the resources of the huge and expensive computers all to themselves at any one time, he developed something called the Compatible Time Sharing System (CTSS). That meant identifiable users and (probably to thwart all the bright sparks who decided to pretend to be someone else) the implementation of computer passwords to allow access to those resources. Similar ideas – hidden words or phrases that would identify someone as being allowed access – had been around for centuries or even millennia but this is believed to be the point when they entered computing.

The venerable Dr Corbato passed away recently, aged 93, but passwords are still a daily part of computing and probably will be so for a long time to come.

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