The first logins were set up for MIT’s Computer Time Sharing System in 1960.
Back then, sys admins wanted simple authentication, so they chose username and password.
“Nobody wanted to devote machine resources to this authentication stuff,” explained Professor Fred Schneider of Cornell University’s Computer Science faculty in an interview with Wired magazine in January 2012.
Early sys admins could have used a knowledge-based system like mother’s maiden name, first pet, first school… but Schneider said “that would have required storing a fair bit of information about a person”, while a simple login only needed a few bits or bytes.
The concept of a password had its roots in armies and secret clubs, but as the inventor of the computer password Prof Fernando Corbato of MIT admitted to the Wall Street Journal in May 2014:
“Unfortunately it’s become kind of a nightmare with the World Wide Web. I don’t think anybody can possibly remember all the passwords that are issued or set up. That leaves people with two choices. Either you maintain a crib sheet, a mild no-no, or you use some sort of program as a password manager. Either one is a nuisance.”
Haventec’s Authenticate is a third method that is more secure, easier to manage and does away with the ancient form of authentication altogether.