What’s Your Number?

Once upon a time, human beings had very few numbers to memorize.  Sure, there was an occasional census, like when Quirinius was governor of Syria; Mary and Joseph made the trip to Bethlehem to be counted.  From my reading of the gospels, I don’t see that they actually had to remember and regurgitate any numbers.

In 1935, as part of The New Deal, social security numbers were introduced; these nine digits have been the ones most Americans have memorized because they are connected to our “identity.”  The dawning of “technology” and “algorithms” has made it more difficult to protect these nine special numbers and every few months there will be a new report of a “security breach” which threatens our “identity” and our lives in some small way.  For instance, in January, 2007, TJX Companies, Incorporated, announced a “data breach.”  45.7 million consumers were allegedly affected and the potential existed that personal information such as social security numbers and bank account numbers were shared with people whose interests in such information may not have been beneficent.

Such a “security breach” caused great consternation among technology users and consumers; was my password strong enough?

Today, everyone has many, many numbers to remember.  There are tips and free security websites to help consumers strengthen themselves against the nefarious criminals who stalk everyone on the mean streets of cyber-suburbia.

The future promises more numbers and algorithms, not less.

No picture today, just insert a heavy sigh here.  My readers will surely join me in sighing when they read what I’m going to write next.

I miss the days when the only numbers I had to memorize were my home phone number, and my library card number.  Of course, one used to be able to take out library books by just signing one’s name, but when the Lisbon Falls Community Library first went to a card number system, I was number 95.  That was easy enough to remember.

I won’t bore my readers with a long story about the personal angst I suffered when my parents changed their home phone number in the early 1980’s.  It happened to my friend Reggie Black, too, just this past year when his mother finally moved away from Lisbon Falls.  For almost fifty years, Reggie knew if he dialed a certain number, he could reach the Black residence.  Now, it is no more.

Sorry, Reggie.  I feel your pain.

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