How did locking systems evolve?
- Origin of locking systems
- Middle age locks
- The Bramah safety lock
- The Yale lock
- Biometric systems
From the beginning of civilization, people needed a way to keep themselves and their personal belongings safe. The world has experienced numerous kinds of locks and security systems. In the Philippines, homes and offices are now making use of high-tech security measures such as fingerprint scanners and various door locking systems. Philippine homes today are as secure as commercial establishments. But how did this all begin? Let’s take a look at the history and evolution of locking systems.
Origin of Locking Systems
Back in 2000 B.C. the ancient Egyptians – who were way ahead of their time – had developed a locking system that is similar to the concept of modern locks. It was the first pin and tumbler lock. Instead of being made with metal components, the ancient Egyptians had wooden locks that also made use of a wooden key and brass pins.
Similar to how modern locks work, these pins had to be aligned in order to unlock themselves. This simple key and lock architecture has been preserved as the best safety mechanism for locks that last till this day. This remained unchanged throughout the middle ages.
Middle Age Locks
Though countless revisions have been made, the most significant change was done throughout the middle ages. When English craftsmen made use of metal to strengthen the structure of these locks. But that’s not where they stopped, inside the locks were a series of concentric wards that would hinder the key from turning unless the notch pattern of the right key perfectly mated with the wards.
Once they match, a turn of the key would disengage the lock. This is the lock and key system that we are familiar with today. Though these middle age locks were not perfectly secure as they could easily be picked.
The Bramah Safety Lock
Back in 1784, Joseph Bramah crafted and patented his own high-security lock. This was the most complicated lock of its time and its reputation of sophistication would last for the next 50 years. At the time, it was the hardest lock to pick. The locking mechanism was made up of metal plate sheets that would press against each other arranged in a cylindrical manner.
The key was had a hollow cylindrical design that was made to press against the plates. When the right key is inserted, the plates reach a certain depth and retracts an internal bolt to unlock the system. Each individual plate had to correspond with the right height of each slot inside the lock in order for the bolt to disengage, even the slightest misalignment would prevent the key from turning. This lock remained unpicked until 1851, when American locksmith, Alfred C. Hobbs cracked the code at the Great Exhibition.
The Yale Lock
In 1843, prior to the shocking cracking of the Brahmah Safety lock in 1851, American locksmith, Linus Yale Sr. crafted his own locking system which was basically a modified version of the ancient Egyptian’s pin and tumbler mechanism.
The rebirth of the ancient Egyptian lock design came with a revised orientation and included more pins. 18 years later, Yale improved the already highly secure Yale Lock’s key by redesigning it with a pervasive flat grooved key that had notches on the edges. This is by far the most common and safest mechanical locking system to date. Incorporating simplicity and security are what makes this lock so special.
Who would’ve thought that going back to the ancient mechanism would prove to be genius? From then on, locksmiths would continue to improve on the design of locks with Yale’s lock as their foundational platform. There have been numerous revisions and innovations around this remarkable locking system.
The dawn of the technological age invited new innovations into the world of security systems. The simple lock and key system was about to change. When Bluetooth technology was introduced in 1994, the landscape of security systems was about to receive a major overhaul. Wireless Bluetooth connection paved the way for IoTs and other wireless data sharing devices. These introduced the world to wireless security systems such as the use of authenticators and biometric systems.
Much like Yale resurrecting the ancient lock and turning it into a formidable security locking tool. Biometric systems were enhanced over time. The first use of biometrics dates back to 1981 and was used by forensics to identify a criminal’s fingerprints. Today, we see biometric systems being widely used for security purposes. From fingerprint scanners to facial recognition. These products save us a lot of time and reduce costs for many establishments.
Forms of locking systems have come a long way. Their rapid development met the rising demand for safer security systems. In the Philippines, the use of biometric fingerprint scanners is a common door locking system. Even the Philippines is adapting to the advancement of new technological systems. What gave rise to these smart biometric and door locking systems were their genius predecessors. We should always find the time to appreciate the old greats for opening the door to innovation.