Computer password inventor dies aged 93

Computer password inventor Fernando Corbato, who used passwords for the first time to protect user accounts, died at 93.

Dr. Corbato introduced the basic security measures and developed methods that allow more people use a computer at same time.

He developed a technique, called time-sharing, that divided the processing power of a computer so that it could serve more than one person at a time.

Computer password inventor, Dr. Corbato would have died as a result of complications caused by diabetes.

Small slices

The work on sharing a computer was done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where Dr. Corbato spent his entire career.

He joined MIT in 1950 to study a PhD in physics, but during those years he realized that he was more interested in machines than physicists used to do his calculations than in the subject itself.

Using computers during the 1950s was an exercise in frustration because the huge monolithic machines could only handle one processing job at a time.

In an attempt to overcome this limitation, Dr. Corbato developed a computer operating system called Compatible Time Sharing System (CTSS).

Instead of having the machine dedicated to just one person, CTSS divided the processing power of a computer into small segments so that it could do small jobs for many people.

Even in the 50s and 60s, computers were so fast that no user noticed that they were only getting a small part of the processing capacity of a machine at any given time.

The development of CTSS led to another timeshare program called Multics, which was the precursor of the Linux operating system and many other aspects of contemporary computing.

The passwords were introduced in CTSS as a way for users to hide the files and programs in which they were working on the same machine.

“Putting a password for each individual user like a padlock seemed like a very simple solution,” Dr. Corbato told Wired in 2012.

In 1990, Dr. Corbato received the AM Turing Award, one of the highest honors given to computer scientists, for their pioneering work in timeshare systems.

Professor Fadel Adib, of the MIT Media Lab, paid tribute and said: “Our world would be very different without his research and that of his descendants, he is inspired by his work and his legacy.”