Locks have been around for centuries. It isn’t much of a surprise that when man developed sense, he also fostered the need to keep his belongings, things which are important to him, safe from damage and from people who’d like to acquire them from him. Hence, approximately 4000 years before the time of Christ, history witnessed the invention of the first lock, which has since then led to a steady evolution, eventually giving birth to modern day security systems.
When our ancestors first recognized the need to safeguard their prized possessions, the locks which came into existence were primitive gadgets made from rope, fiber or other natural materials. As technology advanced, so did the procedure of making locks, and mechanical locks made up of metal and wood started popping up. The mentions of locks seem to pop in both mythology and in proper history. Although historians remain unsure of the location where locks were first invented, it is believed that the ancient Egyptians were responsible for the invention of the first pin tumbler lock. This lock had a sophisticated system for those times, despite being made entirely of wood. It consisted of a post fixed to the door, a bolt with a set of openings and a key. Inserting the key allowed the bolt to move, and removing it prevented movement.
After the coming of Christ development was seen in lock engineering. However, the complicated and expensive design of these locks enabled only the rich and influential to be able to afford them. Possession of small keys made of silver and gold for these locks, was a sign of symbol and status in those days. The rich flaunted these keys, an act which served dual benefit, keeping the keys on hand at all times, and simultaneously brandishing their wealth.
Even after the fall of the Greco-Roman empire, lock and key systems were made painstakingly by hand, and the rich and affluent were the only ones who needed them with urgency, and to be honest the only people able to afford for them. These people required maximum protection and locks became increasingly complex and the lock smiths opted for increasingly complex keys and faux devices to prevent thieves from being able to pick them.
With these occurrences in mind, locks and keys remained pretty much unchanged for many centuries to come after the birth of Christ. Innovation remained at a standstill for a long period of time before some activity was seen in the 1700’s, with advancement in locks focusing on levers. Robert Barron patented the double–acting tumbler lock. As the name suggests, the Barron Lock had two levers, each of which had to be raised to a different level before the bolt could be extracted.
Jeremiah Chubb made improvements in Barron’s device, incorporating into the lock a spring that could clutch and hold any lever that had been elevated too high by a thief trying to pick the lock. In addition to adding an extra level of security, this advancement also showed when the lock had been damaged or tinkered with, immediately indicating that an attempt at a break in had been made.
Joseph Bramah was working on entirely different techniques in the field of lock development which did not involve the use of levers. His safety lock comprised of a cylindrical key and keyhole. Bramah was persuaded so much of the infallibility of his lock system that he put up a hefty reward for anyone would be able to pick it. Half a century and numerous attempts later it was an American locksmith, who finally managed to pick the lock.
However with the turn of the nineteenth century, and the dawn of the industrial revolution, a revolution was also seen in the craft of lock making. Better manufacturing processes, more sophisticated materials, and the devotion of entire industries to tackle the issues with the old locks, coupled with a time span of a hundred year led to the renaissance of modern locks and the security devices we observe everywhere.
Mid nineteenth century also saw the improvement of the Yale compact cylinder lock, which was based loosely on the earliest pin–tumbler Egyptian model. Locks, it seemed were no longer being engineered for just the domestic market, but also for banks and vaults, who were increasingly feeling the necessity to protect their assets.
A very short period of time saw immense progress in lock making technology and quickly we arrived at the time that locks no longer began to even need keys, and in came the invention of car locks, padlocks, bank-vaults, electronic locks, cam locks, combination locks, keycard locks, time locks, biometric locks and dozens of other types of security devices which surround us everywhere. All these locks are based however on those fundamental models which laid the base for these new age innovative safeguarding contraptions.
Now a days, locks are manufactured mostly in industries, and the profession of the traditional locksmith has receded more to that of a repairman, one who breaks locks and duplicates keys, then actually that of the maker of the locks, which is a task no longer done by hand. Despite all this headway, if a thief is adamant enough, he will come up with some method to thwart the barriers of the lock system, and hence with passing time locks and security systems become more and more complex so that the proprietors remain one step ahead of the bandits.