A History of Locks and Security

A History of Locks and Security

Ever since the concept of ownership was established, locks have been around. Their history is fascinating, not only in terms of the evolution of the locking mechanism, but also in terms of the ways locks are implemented and their relationship to the different levels of security and the need to deter the variety of threats which have come about over the millennia.

Earliest Locks.
The earliest locks, designed with preventative security strategies in mind were developed in Assyria, 6,000 years ago. These were pin locks; a series of pins slot into holes on a bar across a door securing it. By Roman times the use of locked doors and strong boxes had become common place. Locks play a significant role, of course, in helping provide personal security and one has to be grateful for their significant advancement since these early Assyrian locks. Modern threats can not be averted via locking mechanisms alone and there is an increasing need for companies like Surelock to help advise on all round personal and corporate security.

Locks are only a small aspect of overall personal security, but nonetheless their advancement since these early Assyrian locks

Locks have come a long way since then. Although companies like Surelock are leaders in the provision of personal security and advice on security matters.

Basic mechanics.
Early locking devices were based on two simple mechanisms still used today:

• A series of pins that on application of a key rise from specially prepared housings, releasing the lock; or alternatively
• A bolt or bolts activated, on the turn of a key, by levers.

Warded locks common during the medieval period were of this type had become much smaller and were built into doors facilitating the use of keyholes.

Tumbler Locks.
1778 saw the invention of the first modern lever tumbler locks. In 1778, English locksmith, Robert Barron, improved the design with the introduction of a double acting lever tumbler lock which kept the bolt in place and ensured that the lever was lifted to the right height to address the bolt.

In the 1820s, Jeremiah Chubb took the lever tumbler lock a stage favour with his relocker; a feature which enabled the key holder to determine whether anyone had meddled with the lock. Lever tumbler locks eventually became known as Chubb locks, incorporating several levers of which the five lever varieties became a popular way of ensuring a good degree of home security and a foil against burglary. Home insurers invariably request these locks be fitted on external doors as a condition of insurance.

Pin Locks.
It was Linus Yale and his son, of the same name who in the mid 19th century improved the design of pin tumbler locks by introducing key pins of different sizes, each matching a particular cut in the key, and driver pins which prevented the plug, which by now was housed in a cylinder inside the frame of the lock into which the key was inserted, from rotating. The driver pins were kept in place and at the right height by springs.

In 1784 Joseph Bramha of Barnsley, England received a patent for his lock design culminating in his famous Challenge Lock, so called because he offered a 200 guinea prize to anyone who could pick it. Charles Hobbs an American locksmith did, though not without controversy, at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Padlocks are invariably metal with a U shaped shackle that locks into the device. Applying the key opens the shackle which can then be linked by a chain or hasp to the item to be secured. In an integrated padlock, rotating discs with groves cut into them connect with the shackle. In padlocks with a modular design the plug is set in the cylindrical housing which also has a “locking dog” pins that jut out from the shackle lock into the casing. In 1920 Harry Soref put this type of lock in general production using plates riveted together with a hole running tough the middle to house the cylindrical mechanism.

Cylinder Locks.
The Romans provide the earliest examples of cylindrical locks that use moveable discs with numbers on which when properly aligned release the locking mechanism. Today they are used to lock bikes, gym lockers and for personal security on hand luggage, laptops and other devices. In 1857 James Sargent designed a key changeable magnetic bank lock. He then went on to develop a time lock and in 1880 merged the two ideas to create the first lock that could be opened by combination but only at a certain time.

Sam Segal, was an American Police office who noticed that thieves tend to jemmy locks where a bolt fits into a housing but leave hinges alone. In 1912 he invented a hinged lock that bolted across an opening secured with a deadbolt. He then went on to invent a pick-proof cylinder lock.

Modern locks.
Lever activated mortise locks tend to be the favoured option for internal house doors and require housing in a door jamb opposite to the lock. Digital locks are common place on multi-occupancy buildings. Once the correct code is input a small electrical charge releases the mechanism. Smart locks can be operated from smart phones, specially designed and enabled key fobs or other devices that can signal using Wi-Fi. It is even possible to transfer the information required to open a smart lock via Wi-Fi to another person.

The future.
In 1936, the ophthalmologist, Frank Burch noted the uniqueness of each person’s iris. Since then technology first developed to facilitate biometric identification is now being used for locks. The person seeking entry simply looks into a glass plate and if the iris pattern is held on the system the door will unlock.