Open Sesame. Pretty please?

Like millions of people living today who are semi-computer capable and who have a love/hate, “but mostly hate” relationship with technology simply because it moves at precisely the same speed as the tip of a bullwhip, I have one overwhelming pain-in-the-backside problem that grows monumentally larger every single day:

PASSWORDS.

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In early history, Roman soldiers used watchwords. These secret keywords were inscribed on wooden tablets and given out when the troops made camp at night. Passed from one guard to the next, and returned to the equivalent of their commander in chief in the morning, it was pretty easy to determine who was going to get a lickin based on the handwriting of all the tic tac toe games on the reverse side. But who could blame them, right? Angry Birds, Flappy Bird and Candy Crush were a few years off.

Skip and jump forward a few wars and the military decides to up the ante in their “anti-theft” division. Now you not only have to remember the day’s password, but you have to come up with the day’s counterpassword as well. So he says, “Potato,” and you say, “Potahto.” Capish? It’s the old call and response routine, and it worked well enough until everyone repeatedly forgot where they were and took to belting out Broadway tunes for the rest of the night. It made them an easy target for any folks on the enemy side who hadn’t already developed a taste for Liza Minnelli.

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Let’s time travel all the way up to the mid 1960s and walk through the hallowed halls of MIT, into the overly warm, clamorous, wall to wall stuffed room where researchers housed their newly built contraption—a time-sharing computer called CTSS. Supposedly it was an acronym for Compatible Time-Sharing System, but it could easily have been dubbed Create Trouble & Steal Security. The folks who worked on this computer are in many circles given credit for being the first to see the necessity and employ the use of passwords. They were also the first group of young adults to coin the term hacker and make a profitable practice developing the art.

Yep. It’s like asking the fox to guard the henhouse.

The rules for keeping your data safe on the internet today have grown from Think up a word and you can sleep at night knowing your emails are private, to Yeah, buddy, even if you come up with a brand new language using only tab keys, your door bell and the scroll lock switch, we’ll find out how many pennies you’ve got stored in your piggy bank in the time it takes for you to brush only half your teeth. So there. Nighty night.

It seems impossible to conform to all the dished out sage advice that counsels you to use different passwords for every site where you need to leave behind some of your personal identity.

There’s got to be a better way.

Let me blow in a tube that can code my breath, lick a saliva indentifying patch on my monitor, or bite down on a dental impression fitted to my keyboard. Surely the millions of kids with stupefying techy talent out there can whip up some solution to this world-wide conundrum we repeatedly face multiple times an hour, yes?

I’m told not to create a password that would be easily guessed, not to make it personal, not to repeat characters, not to use too few, but not to use too many. Have some letters, throw in a number, squeeze in a character, and do the hokey pokey.

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Now … do not, even under threat of torture, write it down.

But don’t forget it.

Now rinse and repeat for the next fifty web sites you do business with.

My brain is exploding.

Can’t I get a chip implanted in my wrist? How about a fingertip recognition keyboard? I would even go so far as to willingly give a small blood sample in place of recalling absurd, brain-blunting codes that a computer could crack in the blink of an eye.

Apparently organizing and overseeing passwords has a hefty price tag attached to it—somewhere in the region of billions of dollars in productivity losses every year. The extra time snatched away from me has surely affected my day negatively. I write less, bathe less, and have had to forgo putting parsley on my family’s dinner plates. Every second counts in my day, and instead of carving tomato flowers, I am desperately trying to protect my social security number from computer criminals who would one day like to have my checks sent to their mailboxes and not mine. No matter that by the time I qualify, social security numbers will be as financially valuable as an avocado-colored bar blender, but I’m sure some of their efforts are paying off now.

I know there’s no quick fix on the horizon, but I think I’ve come up with a few pretty good ideas.

If none of the above are worthy of consideration, I might even be willing to go back to showing my computer my daily wooden tablet to gain access.

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It’ll probably only bring me to a site where I can play tic tac toe.

~Shelley

 

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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