Unpacking the nightmare of passwords: Who Invented them anyway?

Apr 29, 2023
Source: Getty

Who on earth made passwords?  I often ask myself this wonderful, despairing question. Do you? I am a golden oldie, navigating the internet, like lots of seniors. I sit here at my desktop, seeking to ‘log in’ to a website I appear to urgently require. I tried my usual password.

Wrong! I tried my alternative password. Wrong again!

Then I tried my old password. Even more wrong!

What was my password? Now I have to reset my password. I forget to write it down in my ever-expanding inventory of passwords. 

I have a password for this website. I have a password for my banking. I have a password for the library. I have a password for my language course. I have a password for Tattslotto. And so on. 

They must be strong passwords, with a mixture of numerals and letters, capital and lowercase. But which is the correct password? I despairingly wonder. I sit here at the computer, annoyed. 

So, website, what was wrong with that password? There is no adequate response from an inanimate object, my digital appliance. Did someone invent passwords to make adult humans feel inadequate and stupid? I do ponder. Why doesn’t each website just post a message: “Get off our website. We don’t want you on our website, you old hag!”

Rejected, naturally, I pose a question to Google. Who invented passwords? Apparently, one Fernando Corbato, a computer science professor in the USA, invented passwords in the early 1960s.

But, years later, he admitted that he personally had created over 150 passwords for himself. This genius owned three books of passwords.

Finally, he concluded that none of them had protected any of his data security. To him, his computer passwords had become a “kind of nightmare”, as he could not recall them. 

But we do acknowledge the necessity for our digital passwords. The other week I encountered a young man who had recently completed a tertiary degree in cybersecurity, right here in a local suburb. With this qualification, the world is his oyster. He can gain employment at any conglomerate, working in the new age of protecting clients’ passwords.

He is now regarded as a counter-hacker. Large companies have been targeted by computer hackers, spam ensued, and there was great breaching of current security systems. These types of job opportunities and training are fields we boomers would never have dreamt of inventing. 

By the time this young male reaches our senior age, his young ones shall probably regard him as an antiquated dinosaur too. Perhaps they will invent something even better. Our passwords will have been long forgotten. 

Really, do tell. Thanks so much for sharing. Undeterred, I logged in again. Does this happen to you too? Is anyone else dithering over which password to use? Or was it my old password? Or my latest password? Why aren’t my passwords good enough? Passwords on computers are a constant but can change. Tell me about it. Never mind, I can’t stop being philosophical, I have to log in to reset my password!

Yeah, success. I have had to negotiate a phone text and a temporary password of digits. I have pressed enough buttons and keyboard skills. I have a new password. I make sure I write that one as well. This has taken too long, it has all given me twice as many wrinkles as I had.

Now I have lost total interest in my aim of logging on in the first place. “Tomorrow is another day” as a famous quote did say. Feeling triumphant, I store my new password.

That took long enough, passwords are definitely a glitch in this old hag’s radar! 


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