1. Tittle: History of technology in
Worked by: Mario Peleshka
Scool: “Androkli Kostallari”
2. Of all the technology you use on a daily basis, you probably pay the
least attention to the mechanical miracles that keep your home or your
gym bag secure. Locks and keys have been around for millennia, but
they are undergoing one of their rare historic shifts—from mechanical to
electronic, from isolated to interconnected.
This change is one of the most extreme innovations in security since the
invention of the wooden pin lock in Mesopotamia, some 6,000 years
ago. Where the original locks gave people the ability to leave
possessions unattended, the locks of the future could serve as
attendants themselves, personalizing security and keeping track of who
is coming and going.
Whether that’s an improvement over carrying around anonymous,
crooked pieces of metal to get into our homes is an open question.
3. The earliest known locking mechanisms were discovered by
archaeologists in the mid-19th century at the Palace of
Khorsabad in modern day Iraq. The rudimentary key and
lock system dates back to 4000 B.C., when the area would
have been the Mesopotamian kingdom of Assyria. The
wooden design is remarkably similar to modern-day locks—
or at least the underlying principle is the same.
It’s known as a pin lock. Basically, pins of varying length
inside the locking mechanism would prevent the door from
opening unless the proper key was inserted. The key would
push the pins up so that the wooden bolt that kept the door
secure could be moved out of the way.
At this point in history, the only alternative to this simple
lock for securing a door would have been posting a guard
there. So you can comprehend the convenience.
5. The ancient Egyptians improved upon the
Mesopotamian design and are largely credited with
popularizing the use of a key and lock in architecture.
Though the locking mechanism was still made of wood,
the Egyptians often used brass for the pins. The
slightly more advanced locks would have looked a bit
The simple key-and-pin principle has persevered over
the century. It spread from Egypt to Greece and
eventually to the Roman Empire, where it was further
adapted to smaller locks that could secure chests and
drawers. Apparently, affluent Romans would wear their
keys like rings so that other patricians would know that
they were rich enough to own things that needed
6. The basic design of the wooden pin lock remained largely
unchanged until the Middle Ages, when English craftsman
made the first all-metal warded locks. These locks feature a
keyhole with a cylinder on the far end. Inside the keyhole were
a series of concentric plates, or wards, that would block a key
from turning unless the pattern of notches on the key matched
the pattern of wards. If the key turned freely, it would engage or
disengage the bolt when turned.
Warded locks remain in use today, though they’re largely found
at historic sites where they’ve been keeping out imposters for
centuries. The keys themselves will look familiar to anyone
who’s ever dreamed of living in a castle or joining a secret
society. They’re beautiful!
8. But the handsome contraptions have their faults. The patterns of
wards and notches provided the security of keeping the key from
one lock from turning in another. If you knew the correct basic key
shape, though, you could file down the key’s notches to avoid the
wards altogether, making a skeleton key. This way, the key would
essentially be one giant notch, free to turn unobstructed past any
arrangement of wards. The feature was handy for the lord who
wanted to be able to unlock every door in his castle. It was even
handier for the thief who also wanted to unlock every door in the
While they weren’t perfectly secure, these warded locks did usher
in a new era of craftsmanship. Skilled metalworkers were
employed as locksmiths, designing and building ornate locks and
keys that matched the architecture of the estate. By manipulating
keyhole shapes and adding complexity to the wards, locksmiths
could increase security. But the workmanship of skeleton keys
advanced along with that of the locks. By the end of the
Renaissance, dozens of different designs cropped up, and lock-
picking became a craft itself. Naturally, the desire to craft an
unpickable lock became paramount.
9. The Industrial Age ushered in a new era of sophisticated locks and further established
the English as security savants. In 1778, Robert Barron patented a double-acting lever
tumbler lock. Where the ancient tumbler lock disengaged when all of the pins were
lifted, the new design required its two to four separate levers to be lifted to specific,
different heights. Barron called his invention “a lock far more secure than any hitherto
The lock still wasn’t completely secure, however. With the right tools and skills, the lock
could be picked, although it was more difficult in locks with more levers involved.
Adding more variables would increase security, so it didn’t take too long for another
Englishman to trump Barron’s design.
In 1784, Joseph Bramah patented a high-security lock that’s still manufactured and sold
in London today. The design remains virtually unchanged. A cylindrical key presses a
series of wafers inside the locking mechanism that serves a similar purpose to the
levers in Barron’s lock: The right key hits the wafers at specific depths and retracts the
bolt. Bramah was so confident about his lock’s security that he displayed a “challenge
lock” in his store’s window in 1790 and offered 200 gold guineas to anyone who could
pick it. (That much gold is worth about $200,000 today.) It remained unpicked until
American locksmith Alfred C. Hobbs successfully cracked it at the Great Exhibition of
1851. It took him 51 hours.
The Bramah lock’s superiority at didn’t stop others from innovating, however. In 1817, a
burglary in Portsmouth Royal Dockyards prompted the British government to hold a
competition for the creation of a lock that couldn’t be opened without the proper key.
The £100 prize went to Jeremiah Chubb who improved upon Barron’s design with his
own lever tumbler lock. He added a built-in relocking feature: The so-called detector lock
would intentionally jam if the wrong key was inserted. Only the proper key could then
open the lock. The Chubb detector lock also remained unpicked until the Great
Exhibition when—you guessed it—Alfred C. Hobbs opened it.
11. Hobbs’ legendary showing at the Great
Exhibition spelled the beginning of the end
of England’s reign as masters of master
locksmithing. “We believed before the
Exhibition opened that we had the best
locks in the world,” reported The Times,
“and among us Bramah and Chubb were
reckoned quite as impregnable as
Gibraltar.” American innovation would
trounce that tradition.
15. Over the course of the next century-and-a-half,
locksmiths would keep introducing new designs and
improving upon Yale’s design. Around the turn of the
20th century, however, came one of the first
intimations that a lock might do something more than
opening or closing a latch. In 1909, Walter Schlage
patented a door lock that could turn the lights on and
Schlage would later invent the cylindrical pin-tumbler
lock with a push-button locking mechanism, a
convenient little innovation on the Yale design that
you’ve probably used a million times in homes and
businesses. The company that Schlage founded
remains one of the world’s biggest lock manufacturers.
But his idea that a lock could be more than a lock
would have to wait till the digital age to flourish.
16. The Intuitive Future of Locks and Keys
The development of physical security is much more complicated than a linear history of
locks and keys. The ancient Romans also pioneered the earliest combination locks,
transforming the key from an object into an idea. James Sargent advanced this idea even
further by inventing the world’s first key-changeable combination lock in 1857. Sargent
made locks smarter when he created the world’s first time lock, which would only open at a
set time, and time-delay locks, which would only open after a certain interval, in 1873 and
The idea of an intuitive lock that would only open for a certain person at a certain time took
off in the late 20th century. Tor Sørnes patented the first electronic keycard lock in 1975,
opening a new market for programmable locks. In recent decades, electric locks have made
use of all kinds of authentication methods, from passwords to biometric data like
fingerprints. Digital keys like security tokens and RFID tags have given us a world where
blasts of infrared light or sequences of ones and zeroes will open doors. You can now even
open some doors with your face.
Until recently, the most modern access control technology was reserved for government and
businesses. Installing a facial recognition security system is not cheap. As the internet of
things becomes more pervasive, however, the world’s oldest lock companies are looking for
ways to put the newest technologies into people’s homes. The end goal, it seems, is to do
away with the very lose-able and spoof-able physical key.
Lock veterans like Yale and Schlage—along with a burgeoning number of startups—intend
to lead the way toward a keyless future. This year, both companies announced new
connected locks that will open with the swipe of a smartphone or even the sound of your
voice. Schlage’s new Sense lock works with Apple HomeKit so you can use Siri to open your
deadbolt. It also works with an old fashioned key.