Technology

Tuesday Buzz: Meet the Man Who Invented the Password

By / May 27, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The professor who invented modern computer passwords says they’ve gotten out of hand. Also: a marketing campaign blast from the past.

You probably have a love-hate relationship with all of your passwords—and the security problems they introduce.

If so, you have a similar viewpoint to a key authority on the matter: Fernando Corbató, the MIT professor who invented the concept of the computer password in the early 1960s.

Corbató pioneered the concept as part of his role managing a number of time-sharing computers at the research university. The passwords were intended to secure files that would otherwise have been at risk. His idea, he says, was good for its time, but it came before the age of the internet. Since then, things have gotten out of hand.

“Unfortunately it’s become kind of a nightmare with the World Wide Web,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “I don’t think anybody can possibly remember all the passwords that are issued or set up. That leaves people with two choices. Either you maintain a crib sheet, a mild no-no, or you use some sort of program as a password manager.”

In case you’re wondering, the 87-year-old Corbató has used about 150 passwords in his lifetime, and, no, he can’t remember them all.

When it Sticks

Sometimes, the best campaigns are so good that they resurface decades later. That’s what SCD Group’s Steve Drake found when a marketing campaign he played a key part in resurfaced in a recent book.

Drake, who worked at the American Soybean Association in the late 1980s, developed a campaign to stem the tide of imported palm oil, which was threatening soybeans at the time. The reason it stuck, he says, is that the message mixed simple emotions and credible evidence.

“Over the course of my career in public relations and association management, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of ‘sticky’ campaigns or programs that yielded meaningful results,” he says.

Have any at your organization you’d like to talk up?

Other good reads

Are you feeling bad about a leadership decision you made that unintentionally harmed others? This roundup of insights on Inc.com could help you manage your guilt.

If your association has a YouTube channel, you may want to check out this AppleInsider report on several changes the video network is planning to introduce—including a new monetization strategy.

Idea Architects’ Jeffrey Cufaude breaks down the idea of “power prospecting,” an event networking strategy.

Where’s the childlike wonder? Jeff Hurt ponders why adult curiosity is so rare.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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