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Digital Signatures March 27, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in DIY, how to, lifehack, Memory, Other.

I took something to the post office a couple of weeks ago and when I paid for whatever it was with my debit card the postal employee asked me for my “digital signature.”  I was a little confused, but I picked up the weird stylus thing and prepared to sign something pressure-sensitive, assuming that she misunderstood and thought I was charging it as credit.  “No,” she said, “your digital signature.  Your pin number.”

“Oh,” I said.  “I’ve never heard them called that before.”

“That’s what the Postmaster wants us to call them,” she apologized.

Driving back to work I was thinking about the differences between handwritten signatures and these four-digit codes, which brought to mind all of the passwords we are plagued with these days, and by “we” I mean us people who are in the blogosphere. 

Pins are like signatures because they, in combination with the numbers on the physical card, are unique and identifiable.

Unlike signatures, however, they are so plain.  And in this age of personalized ringtones and the ability to choose to dress in combinations of clothes from any era, they seem so mass-produced.  When I was a senior in high school I changed my signature so that it didn’t really look all that much like my name anymore.  But it was interesting-looking and very distinctive. 

I lost my debit card last month and I called the bank and they issued me a new one, with a new pin.  They told me that I could change the pin whenever I want.  But I suspect that doing so would make it easier for other people to guess.  So I decided to keep it.  But I personalized it as an attempt to memorize it quickly, nonetheless.  Here’s how:

I associate all numbers with consonants according to the following, standard (yes, people all over the English-speaking world use this same one, and I don’t know where it came from) scheme:

  • 1=T or D
  • 2=N
  • 3=M
  • 4=R
  • 5=L
  • 6=Sh, J, Zh, or Ch
  • 7=K
  • 8=F or V
  • 9=B or P
  • 0=S or soft C

So that the new pin immediately formed a couple of distinctive, easy-to-remember words in my mind, because you can vary the consonants a little (Nos 1, 6, 8, 9, and 0) and you can vary the vowells considerably, leaving them out or putting them in to make words or names.  I chose the most distinctive and repeated it a couple of times and can never forget it.

So it is a little more like a signature to me.  But I realized that nobody else could ever marvel at my cool pin number, ’cause that would defeat the purpose of the thing. 

Oh, well.  Just as I was leaving the post office the postal worker told me that the postmaster wants them all to call pencils “graphite dispensers.”  I laughed, but I don’t think she was kidding.  That’s like calling a rifle a “hot lead dispenser.”  Doesn’t say much about the function of the object, does it?



1. strugglingwriter - March 27, 2007

Digital Signatures? How could they expect anyone to know what they were talking about. I think,”Please enter your pin number” would’ve worked a little better. That’s pretty funny.

Nice post, by the way. You seem to really be hitting your stride.

2. caveblogem - March 27, 2007

Thanks, strugglingwriter. What a nice thing to say.

It constantly amazes me, when I go to stores and buy things, how unhelpful people are without really meaning anything by their unhelpfulness. They want to help, but they are being taught how to interact by people who don’t seem to think about things from the customer’s point of view.

For example, the people at the pharmacy I go to (I guess that’s still the chemist for you people in the U.K.) always greet me with the cryptic phrase “you all set?” I can’t envision a situation where I am interacting with them where I would be “all set.” If I was “all set” at any point, then I would go home. And yet it always seems to surprise them that I am not all set and am, in fact, waiting for somebody to take my prescription to be filled, waiting for somebody to fill it an hand it to me, waiting for somebody to check on something, whatever.

Quite puzzling.

3. Cyndi - March 28, 2007

I wonder what the postmaster changed his title to… and if he says things like “we must utilize our perception of the truth of the 800 pound gorilla and coach our personnel to update their AOI – that’s appearance of intelligence – in order to avoid propagating the knowledge base of what brown can do for the organization.”

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