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Silver Threads: Password woes

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

Does anybody younger than my 50-something daughter remember the television game show Password?

It ran on weekdays from 1961 to 1967 -- most of the years I spent at home with our son and daughter. I’d begun my stay-at-home mom stint in 1959, when our son was born, and quickly became addicted to daytime TV: what else can you do when you’re giving a baby innumerable bottles? By the time our daughter was born in ’61 and “Password” had debuted, I was a daily devotee.

In the day, the show -- with Allen Ludden, as host -- consisted of a contest between two teams, each of two people, both of whom tried to guess a password that Ludden showed on a card to those in the studio and television audiences. One person on each team had to come up with a clue and the other would respond. When the password was identified, prizes would be showered on the winners.

Along the way, I got to thinking about how Password -- as a password -- might be ineffective. The other day, when a friend sent me a funny email titled “Senior Setting Password," comment was, “ I could have written this!” I’ll share it with you in a minute, but first I want to explain why I found it so hilarious.

When I got my new computer last summer, one of benefits would be changing my email address so as to put a stop to those messages promising me untold riches should I reply to a writer whose command of English was shaky at best. The change would also put paid to bogus emailers claiming to be working for my internet server and threatening to shut me down unless I supplied my password immediately. Also from merchants whose websites I’d ever visited. (Just unsubscribe? I did, but to little avail.)

I’m safe from all pursuers, I thought, in coming up with a computer ID and password for my new Apple. Except that I couldn’t remember them. And what’s more, the piece of paper I’d written them on kept getting lost under the stacks of paper on my messy desk. One of the several problems about being an old person and regularly using a computer is trying to remember and/or find your passwords.

I use the plural here, because for some reason I can’t understand today I’ve assigned different passwords to different places I need to go into for business — or pleasure — and information. Why ever I thought this might be practical I can’t imagine. No more books from Amazon or shoes from Zappo. I could be suffering from a terrible disease, and can’t get into my Ochsner file to find out.

Here’s the funny email, with apologies to its anonymous creator for not being able to supply a by-line.

A Senior Trying to Set a Password:

WINDOWS: Please enter your new password.

USER: cabbage.

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must be more than eight characters.

USER: boiled cabbage.

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must contain one numerical character.

USER: 1 boiled cabbage.

\WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot have blank spaces.

USER: 50boiledcabbages.

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must contain at least one upper-case character.

USER: 50COTTONPICKINGboiledcabbages.

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot contain more than one upper-case character consecutively.

USER: 50CottonpickingboiledcabaggesShovedyouknowwhereIfyoudon’tgivemeaccessnow!

WINDOWS: Sorry,the password cannot contain punctuation.

USER: ReallyTickedOff50cottonpickingboiledcabbagesShovedyouknowwhereGivemeaccessnow.

WINDOWS: Sorry, but that password is already in use.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]