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History of Keys

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History of Keys

Keys and locks go together like, well, keys and locks, because they were invented around the same time, though locks are a teensy bit older, since the most simplistic locks involved rope rather than an actual tumbler mechanism. However, once keys made an appearance, they soon became important for many different reasons. Here’s a brief history on keys and why we still use them today.


Early keys


Some of the earliest keys were made of wood and looked a bit like a toothbrush. Because the earliest locks (ancient Egyptian days) used small pins hidden inside a wooden block, the keys were simple, too. The forced the pins up, freeing the block and allowing people to open the door. However, wooden keys were heavy and easily damaged, and so were the wooden locks.


Roman keys


The Romans took the basic design of the wooden key and made it better and stronger by using iron and bronze. They also made them smaller, so they were easier to carry around in a pocket or on a chain. The design commonly known as the ‘skeleton key’ came about during Roman times, and was the most popular and practical design for hundreds of years.


Modern flat keys


It wasn’t until the 1800’s that the flat key we know today came into existence. Linus Yale and his son, Linus Yale, Jr., introduced these smaller, flat keys and the locks that they operate. They remain the most popular style for keys today, though there are a growing number of digital locks that don’t require any key at all, and biometric locks, which use fingerprints as keys.


It’s not clear whether keys will always be used, but it does make sense to keep them around as a backup method of unlocking locks. After all, they’ve been pretty effective for centuries; they’ll probably be around for many more years.