Hedging Bets

Jan. 4, 2021

High-security locks are the feature topic of our January issue. Except for Mul-T-Lock, every other high-security lock manufacturer uses a single-sided key and a pin tumbler lock system. Modern pin tumbler systems were invented in the 1860s by Linus Yale Although high-security locks are by definition pick-resistant, most types allow ease of duplication if the restricted key blanks are available.

Pin-tumbler lock systems were the favorite of auto manufacturers for decades. GM used wafer tumblers, but years ago all popular foreign and domestic vehicles used single-sided key types. Chrysler used single-sided pin tumbler locks until the late 1980s. Ford finally changed to a wafer convenience key system in 1996. Japanese and German vehicle manufacturers first used double-sided convenience keys in the 1970s, and it wasn’t long Ford and Chrysler followed with their own version of convenience key systems.

Evolution in vehicle security systems from single-sided keys to double-sided convenience keys to laser keys and now wireless remote fobs is a logical and timely progression.

Medeco Security Locks usually is credited with introducing the first controlled-key system in the late 1960s. With many improvements over the years, the basic Medeco single-sided pin-tumbler design exists to this day.

Vehicle lock designs changed in a timely, progressive manner, so why have high-security lock systems remained with the same basic pin-tumbler designs invented more than 50 years ago? It appears that today’s high-security lock systems continue to meet the requirements for key control and pick resistance, so if it works, don't change it.

Meanwhile, several of these same high-security lock companies are hedging their bets by also offering either hybrid mechanical lock systems incorporating electronics in the keybow or completely keyless electronic lock systems. Sooner or later, the public will ask for features such as time and attendance and remote operations not available in purely mechanical lock systems of any kind. One of these years our annual high-security Locksmith Ledger issue will have a whole new look.