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Fernando Corbató — the man behind the first computer password, dies at the age of 93

Prominent American Computer Scientist, Fernando Corbató, who was widely regarded by many as the creator of the computer password, died last week in a Massachusetts nursing home at 93 as a result of diabetes-related complications, The New York Times reported.

Corbató helped deploy the first known computer password in the early 1960s. However, he also admitted that the popular method of securing access to a computer has become unmanageable due to its limited effectiveness as a security system today and the difficulties users face in remembering many passwords for various accounts.

“Unfortunately it’s become kind of a nightmare,” he quipped in a 2014 interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Methods to secure your computer, your smartphone and your many digital accounts have since evolved to become more secure and easier to use thanks to biometrics and facial recognition but it all would not have been invented if it were not for his contribution.

After completing a bachelor’s degree in physics at the California Institute of Technology, Corbató went on to pursue a PhD in the same field at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where, upon his academic graduation, he was hired immediately and worked until his retirement.

In addition to being the first to use a computer password to limit public access to designated files on a shared computer system, Corbató significantly contributed to the development of time-sharing operating systems, a technology that allows a single operating system to multitask.

In the early 1990s, Corbató was a recipient of the distinguished Turing Award for “his pioneering work organizing the concepts and leading the development of the general-purpose, large-scale, time-sharing and resource-sharing computer systems, CTSS and Multics.”

Amin Ashaari