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Password Crazy


Elaine lined up tiles from Qwirkle, a board game, and announced, “That’s my password, Gran!” Qwirkle tiles are stamped with six different shapes, in six different colors. My Grand’s password was an orange square, a green rectangle, a red circle and then four more tiles with different colored shapes and she grouped them, 3-1-2-1. “They have to be like this. Not in one long line.”

I shook my head. Since when did a five-year-old look at shapes and colors and create a password?  And Elaine’s password of seven completely different tiles reminded me of some of my passwords.

Remember the first time you chose a secret word or phrase? It probably included a birthdate, or at least, a birth year. It may have included your name or nickname. Or a family member’s name. And maybe, like me, you used the same password for everything. From online shopping to games to whatever.

Now I’m advised by technology experts to have different passwords for each application and change them frequently and don’t use anything that is easy to guess. Like birthdates and names. So I need to come up with something clever.

Fernando Corbato invented computer passwords in the early 1960s, and he says that passwords have become a “kind of nightmare,” according to an article on businessinsider.com. A nightmare is right. I’m lost in a tunnel of symbols and numbers and letters. Capital letters. Small letters. Corbato admitted that he has a crib sheet, also know as a cheat sheet, so I’m in good company with my handwritten list I keep right beside my computer and the one I keep in my billfold and the one on the notes on my computer desktop screen.

But my crib sheets create problems. Like one in four people I reset at least one password once a month. Not for security, but because of errors. Sometimes the passwords on my lists don’t match and by the time I’ve tried all of them and don’t enter a capital S or don’t type numbers in the correct order, I get a message that I need to reset my password. When I try, messages say the password isn’t strong enough or I can’t use the same one I’d used before. So, in frustration, I choose a phonetic way to spell a word or numbers that make sense at the moment and then I forget to write the new password on all of my lists or I don’t write it correctly.

I’m ready to go with the most common password of all time: 123456. Or one of the two most common words: QWERTY or password. Or one of the more creative top ten passwords: abc123. Surely, I could remember one of these.

If experts are right, Elaine won’t need passwords. Facial recognition or fingerprints will replace the need for a string of letters and numbers. Technology life will be simpler. I just hope my Grand keeps playing board games and never loses her creativity.