Fernando “Corby” Corbató, computer password pioneer, dies at age 93

Fernando “Corby” Corbató, computer password pioneer, dies at age 93
Photo: YouTube | Computer History Museum

Dr. Fernando “Corby” Corbato, credited as the inventor of the computer password, has died due to complications from diabetes at the old age of 93. The scientist spent his entire career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

While data privacy and protection is a hot topic in the modern world, we have Dr. Corbato to thank for pioneering it in the first place. The MIT computer scientist was the first to create passwords in order to protect files in individual user accounts.

Prior to this, the former MIT professor of computer science introduced the development of time-sharing operating systems. This was his solution to the early computer’s limit of only being able to process one problem at a time. With Dr. Corbato’s technique, the processing power of a computer was divided to serve multiple people at once.

Dr. Corbato joined MIT back in 1950 to take a doctorate degree in physics. Later on, the computer genius took more interest in the machines that physicists use for calculations rather than the subject itself.

Back in the 50s, frustration grew over the use of the early computers because as huge as they were, the monolithic machines could only handle on job at a time. Dr. Corbato overcame this frustration with the Compatible Time-Sharing System or CTSS. With this, the computer scientist developed a way for CTSS users to hide and protect files from others working on the same machine.

Dr. Corbato told Wired back in 2012, “Putting a password for each individual user as a lock seemed like a very straightforward solution.”