BrandArena: Pioneering Computer Password Inventor, Fernando Corbató Dies at 93

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Pioneering Computer Password Inventor, Fernando Corbató Dies at 93

Long-standing MIT professor emeritus, Fernando 'Corby' Corbató, who invented the time sharing system on computers has died at 93. He passed on on Friday, July 12, at his home in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Decades before the existence of concepts like cybersecurity and the cloud, Corbató led the development of one of the world’s first operating systems. His “Compatible Time-Sharing System” (CTSS) allowed multiple people to use a computer at the same time, greatly increasing the speed at which programmers could work. It’s also widely credited as the first computer system to use passwords.

According to the BBC, 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 for a doctorate in physics but realized during those years that he was more interested in the machines that physicists used to do their calculations than in the subject itself.

Using computers during the 50s was an exercise in frustration because the huge, monolithic machines could only handle one processing job at a time.

In a bid to overcome this limitation, Dr. Corbato developed an operating system for computers called the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS).

Rather than have the machine dedicated to one person, CTSS divided up the processing power of a computer into small slices so it could do little bits of work for lots of people.

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

Passwords were introduced to CTSS as a way for users to hide away the files and programs they were working on from others on the same machine.

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

Dr. Corbatoin 19990 received the AM Turing Award – one of the highest honors given to computer scientists – for his pioneering work on time-sharing systems.

Prof Fadel Adib, from the Media Lab at MIT, paid tribute, saying: “Our world would be very different without his research and that of his descendants. He inspires in his work and his legacy.”

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