MIT Professor Emeritus Fernando Corbató, Pioneering Computer Password Inventor, Dies at 93

Long-standing MIT professor, Fernando 'Corby' Corbató, who invented the time sharing system on computers has died at 93.

MIT Professor Emeritus Fernando Corbató, Pioneering Computer Password Inventor, Dies at 93
Cordy's work led to the founding of the CSAIL Lab Luci Li/Wikimedia Commons

Nowadays we most likely all take for granted the password security systems on our computers and laptops, logging in and out without much of a second thought.

There was a time when this was not the case, and we have Dr. Emeritus Fernando Corbató to thank for our password-protected computers, allowing more people to use the same computer at the same time.

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The technique Corbató invented was called "time-sharing," which divided the processing power of a computer so that more than one person could use it at the same time.

MIT Professor Emeritus Fernando Corbató, Pioneering Computer Password Inventor, Dies at 93
Source: Jason Dorfman/Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Corbató died on Friday, July 12th in Massachusetts, aged 93

 

A long-standing career at MIT

Corbató spent his entire career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where the work on sharing computers was invented. 

Corbató spent his entire career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where the work on sharing computers was invented. 

He joined the prestigious institute in 1950, for a doctorate in physics. What he quickly realized was that he was in fact more intrigued by the machines the physicists were using rather than by the study matter itself. 

Computers in the 1950s were not as we know them today, using them was a frustrating state of affairs. They were huge, monolithic contraptions that could only handle one job at a time. 

Frustrated by their limitations, Corbató created the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS), where instead of just only managing to work on one person's work at a time, the system sliced up the processing power of a computer so it could handle the work from a number of different people all at once. 

MIT Professor Emeritus Fernando Corbató, Pioneering Computer Password Inventor, Dies at 93
Corbató at MIT, ca 1965. Source: Computer Science Museum

Following on from this, passwords were then created in the CTSS so as to allow users to safeguard their information and files without others accessing them without permission. 

In 2012, Corbató told Wired: "Putting a password on for each individual user as a lock seemed like a very straightforward solution."

Corbató received the AM Turing Award in 1990 for his pioneering work on time-sharing systems. The Turing award is one of the highest and most prestigious awards given to computer scientists. 

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