Locks and Keys – A Brief History. Here’s How They Have Evolved over the Years

locks and keys

From wood to metal, locks and keys have certainly seen their fair share of innovation over the centuries.

The wooden pin lock was discovered in ancient Mesopotamia. Invented some 4,000 years ago, the design was remarkably similar to modern-day locks.

Centuries later, the wood has turned into metal, intricate mechanisms are being replaced by electronics, and isolation tends to go towards interconnection.

Without further ado, let’s take a walk down history lane and see how locks and keys have changed.

The Origins

As mentioned above, the oldest lock mechanism ever discovered looked a lot like what we use today. Granted, it may have lacked the durability and security we get to enjoy in the present, but for its time, it was remarkable.

People have always craved the feeling of security and the first lock is simply proof of that.

locks and keys

The oldest lock had pins of varying length as part of the locking mechanism. They would prevent the door from opening unless the proper key was inserted to push the pins up so that the wooden bolt which kept the door secure could be moved out of the way.

Egyptians Made Locks and Keys Popular

Ancient Egyptians took the Mesopotamian model, improved it and made it popular. In fact, they are credited with the use of lock and key in architecture.

The Egyptian model was a bit more durable because they replaced the wooden pins with brass. It became so popular that it spread to Greece and the Roman Empire.

They took over and decided to further develop it. Thus, they invented smaller locks and keys which could be fitted to secure chests and drawers.

Another important aspect is that in Europe, locks became a statement. Affluent Romans would wear their keys like rings, so that others would know that they were rich enough to own things which needed protection.

The Birth of Modern Locksmithing

The original design remained largely the same throughout the centuries. However, the Middle Ages saw some innovation in the form of the all metal warded lock. The design only lasted until the technological revolution took over and England became the cradle of security.

locks and keys

Robert Barron patented a double-acting lever tumbler lock, in 1778. Just six years later, Joseph Bramah patented a high-security lock which is still manufactured and sold in London today.

Both of those and subsequent models were successfully picked by an American – Alfred C. Hobbs – and the Great Exhibition. And the authority in locks and keys moved to America.

Yale and the Future

Linus Yale Sr. patented his pin and tumbler lock, in 1843. It became so popular and trusted, people simply called it the Yale lock.

But slowly, another revolution was taking over everything: the digital era. The first electronic lock was patented in 1975. It has been used largely in hotels and cars.

locks and keys

However, the present looks to take the electronic lock even further. People can now opt for all kinds of authentication methods, from passwords to fingerprints. Even Yale is pushing towards a future without physical keys.

Yale smart locks can now connect to the internet and other smart devices you have in your home. They can be safely armed or disarmed remotely, using just your smartphone. They get you a different kind of security – more immersive since you can monitor your home even while on holiday.

If you’d like to learn even more about how to keep your home safe in the present, you can always get in touch with us.

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