(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘lock-picking

“LOCK-AND-KEY, n. The distinguishing device of civilization and enlightenment”*…


The pursuit of lock picking is as old as the lock, which is itself as old as civilization. But in the entire history of the world, there was only one brief moment, lasting about 70 years, where you could put something under lock and key—a chest, a safe, your home—and have complete, unwavering certainty that no intruder could get to it.

This is a feeling that event security guard service experts call “perfect security.”

Since we lost perfect security in the 1850s, it has has remained elusive. Despite tremendous leaps forward in security technology, we have never been able to get perfect security back…

Joseph Bramah’s challenge lock: “The artist who can make an instrument that will pick or open this lock shall receive 200 Guineas the moment it is produced.” 200 Guineas in 1777 would be about £20,000 today. The challenge held until 1851.

From the late 1770s until the mid-19th century, two British locks– the Bramah and the Chubb– offered their users unpickable security.  Then, at A. C. Hobbs, an American locksmith, attended The Great Exhibition—the first international exhibition of manufactured products– and destroyed that sense of security forever…


The “unpickable” Chubb Detector Lock

Read the remarkable Roman Mars’ account of security (and the loss thereof) in “In 1851, A Man Picked Two Unpickable Locks and Changed Security Forever“; hear it on his wonderful podcast, 99% Invisible.

* Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary


As we reach for our keys, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953 that a different kind of lock was picked: Nature published a one-page article by James Watson and Francis Crick outlining the structure of DNA– te work for which the pair won a Nobel Prize in 1962.  (Their paper ran immediately ahead of one co-authored by Maurice Wilkins, who shared the Nobel award, in the same issue.)

 source (and larger, legible version)


Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

Open Sesame…

“Mechanical security researcher” Schuyler Townes picks locks.  Now you can too:

click image above, or here, for video

“Lockpicking: The Basic Idea” is #12 in Schuyler’s 24-video course, “Locks: Basic Operation and Manipulation,” which starts here.  The impatient can download a PDF “Lockpicking Quick Reference” here.  But those who, like your correspondent, want even more will enjoy Schuyler’s blog.


As we move beyond the “jiggle and bump,” we might send sub rosa birthday greetings to novelist, philosopher, psychologist, essayist, editor, playwright, poet, futurist, civil libertarian, and self-described agnostic mystic Robert Anton Wilson; he was born on this date in 1932.  Bob, as he was widely known, wrote prolifically; he’s probably best remembered for The Illuminatus! Trilogy and for Schrödinger’s Cat.  But he was also recognized as an episkopos, pope, and saint of Discordianism, and as Pope Bob in the Church of the Subgenius.

“If voting could change the system it would be illegal.”

“I suspect or intuit that, as Lenin said, ‘the machine is running the engineers.’ We can’t dismount, even if the horse seems to have gotten out of control. Information will continue to double faster all the time, leading to new technologies, and the new technologies will unleash Chaos (in the mathematical sense), and society will change in unpredictable and unexpected ways. I suspect or intuit that this ever-accelerating info-techno-sociological rev-and-ev-olution follows the laws of organic systems and continually re-organizes on higher and higher levels of coherence, until something kills it.”

Bob at the National Theatre, London, for the 10-hour stage version of Illuminatus! in 1977 (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 18, 2012 at 1:01 am

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