Computer password inventor Fernando Corbato dies at 93


14 Jul 2019

Fernando Corbato, the inventor of computer password, dies at 93

In a major loss for the world of computing, Fernando 'Corby' Corbato, the man who devised the first password, has passed away.

The legendary MIT computer scientist died aged 93 at his home in Newton, Massachusetts.

His pioneering work leading to the invention of the password shaped digital security into what we know today.

Here's all about Corbato and his work.


Corbato invented password while developing time-sharing system

Born in Oakland, Corbato contributed to several developments in the field of computer science, most notably password-protected user accounts.

He devised the concept of passwords while leading the development of Computer Time-Sharing System (CTSS), which allowed multiple users to use a computer system at the same time.

It went on to become one of the first operating systems in the world.


CTSS made working easier for programmers

CTSS made working easier for programmers

The time-sharing system developed by Corbato enabled shared computing for programmers with "compartmentalization" and basic privacy.

This not only accelerated their pace of work but also ensured that they could have their own private accounts and protect the data kept in them with a password.

To note, the capability of the OS reduced computer response wait time from hours to a few minutes.

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CTSS brought email, word processing

As The Next Web reports, the Computer Time-Sharing System was also the first to enable the development and use of early versions of email, instant messaging, and word processing.


Then came Multics, which led to modern-day operating systems

Using the work on CTSS, Corbato led the development of Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service), a popular and influential time-sharing operating system based on the concept of a single-level memory.

The OS inspired Unix and heavily influenced the development of modern-day operating systems (like Linux) with improved privacy options and other features.

Other works

Other work led by Corbato

Other work led by Corbato

Corbato is also the brain behind the famous "Corbató's Law."

It states that the number of lines of code a programmer can write in a fixed period of time is the same, independent of the language used.

Not to mention, his work also inspired MIT to start project MAC, which went on to become the institute's famous Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

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