How many passwords do you really know?

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I’m probably more of an exception than most people, but not that exceptional, insofar as I have a lot of passwords. Dozens and dozens of them. Possibly hundreds. There’s 325, in fact, in my Keychain, which only encompasses the electronic side… then there’s things like bankcard PINs, secret words and such junk for all sorts of things… a lot of those are duplicates, since I only tend to use about 20 unique passwords, divided into their own little domains like work, private home, really private home, public, etc. But a lot aren’t; there’s all those ones that are assigned by whoever gave them to me, and I haven’t bothered to change them, or they’re sensitive enough that I won’t share them with anything else.

…and I’ve just realised that despite having hundreds of passwords, I only consciously know a handful of them. In fact, I can’t remember some of my work passwords at all, yet I can still use them. As soon as I start typing them, they just flow out from somewhere.

Take for example a few moments ago where I logged into .Mac to check something (which I’ve only just remembered I was doing, having been distracted by this tangent). I typed in one of my generic passwords without thinking, which was wrong. And then it told me to try again, and I started typing… but something wasn’t right. I couldn’t figure out what – I was sure the password was right. But then I deleted it and started again, and realised it wasn’t. I’d actually forgotten what the real password was, and the first guess had started off wrong. The second started right, and then I remembered the rest.

I guess this doesn’t sound like front page news, but only because I’m not conveying the bizarre sense that accompanied this… it was… weird.

So now I’m thinking about what other passwords I can’t consciously remember, and there’s a lot. I’m going to have to go around all my irregular haunts just to refresh my motor memory. Maybe I should write a pop-quiz app which tests me on the contents of my Keychain. 😉

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