I don’t think anything taxes my memory as much as my innumerous passwords do. Added to the misery of remembering passwords, we are asked to change them frequently too, for security reasons.
A few years ago, my office introduced this weird (but no doubt, relevant) rule that we should change our passwords once a month. If it were a mere recommendation, I don’t think any of us would have bothered to follow it. But it was an automated thing, and every thirty days the message would show up in red that it was time to change password and that dire consequences await us if we don’t change it in the next seven days or so.
I appealed to my system admin for help. I told him that if this goes on, he would have to despatch me off to a lunatic asylum because maintaining these monthly passwords would wipe the rest of my memory off my overworked brain. He understood perfectly – both because he had seen many other near-breaking-point people in his life and also because he was human enough to understand that it was difficult.
He gave me a fix: he asked me to insert the month in the middle of the password and to leave the rest of the alphabets intact. So every month my password began to look like this: xxxJANxxx, xxxFEBxxx. The system never caught up.
Flashback to 1991 and my very first encounter with computers. Someone must have created a password for us. Wait – in 1991 we had small buzzing computer labs, where we spoke in hushed tones, at the entrance of which we used to take off our shoes, those ominous curtained rooms which were air-conditioned just for the weak, gentle, white, purring, foreign beings residing inside.
The World had been such a simple place, and there was only one password to remember – the one the system admin had created for us to login to our P.C. Secrets did not lie inside the computers. Computers were used only for what they were meant to do. Like, write a program in BASIC to add two numbers.
Today I have a file to maintain my passwords. And a password to protect that file. And that password is stored elsewhere in case I forget it. Each site has different rules for password creation. Besides, nothing is more foolish than having the same password for all sites. I don’t like the idea of websites linked together and using each other’s information, so I don’t use one login to log in to another site. Some of these sites have password retrieval question which I had set a decade ago. Now I have no idea what those questions are, nor what answers I could possibly have given. I am not who I was ten years ago, how will I give the same answers today?
The story is no different for others. If you walk out on the street and see a host of bewildered, modern-looking humans, be sure that they are all trying to recall a password.
With different websites merging and sharing information, a cure is probably in the horizon, but paranoid people (like me) would think a hundred times before actually linking different accounts.
Meanwhile, the memorised-and-lost-password-epidemic is just waiting to erupt upon the world.