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December 31, 2006

Daisy chains

photo of daisy-chained locks

Hiking in the mountains around southern California, I often come across access roads barred by gates secured with long chains made up of padlocks, all linked together. These daisy chains of locks are the physical manifestation of a wonderfully complex social system, filled with possibilities of cooperation and betrayal.

The locks themselves are owned by various agencies (fire, sheriff, forest service) and companies (cellphone carriers, radio and TV stations, logging companies) who need access to the road. Opening up any one of the locks breaks the loop of locks chaining the gate, so everyone in the chain has equal power to use the road.

photo of daisy-chained locksBut consider what it takes to get your lock added to the chain. You can't add it unilaterally...someone who already has a lock on the chain has to open it and allow you to connect your lock to theirs, as well as to the lock they were formerly attached to, thereby re-forming the chain. From that moment you are a co-equal member of the chain, able to lock and unlock the gate at will.

If you ever want to quit the chain you can of course just stop using your lock without effecting anyone else... you often see old, rusted, obviously no longer used locks on daisy chains.

But to get your lock back, you again require the aid of a lock neighbor -- this time to reconnect the chain after you've been removed. Unless of course you just take your lock and go home, leaving the gate open.

There's one other bit of social interaction possible with daisy chained locks...one of betrayal and exclusion. It's possible for someone to connect their lock not to the next lock in the chain, but to one further down the line. That action leaves the skipped over locks literally out of the loop and dangling like a pendant. The only way those cut-off locks can get back into the loop is if one of three locks (the lock from which the cut-off pendant lock(s) hang, or one of its immediate neighbors) reconnect it.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at December 31, 2006 09:19 AM


I work for a city in CA that has multiple gates with the daisy chain system in place. I got fed up with using that system so I designed a much better system and filed for a patent. This system protects the locks from bolt cutters and any load or force on the gate is stopped by a main locking pin not the locks. Questions please send me a e-mail.

Winston McKee

Posted by: Winston McKee at January 13, 2007 01:17 AM

My contact info for protective solutions and alternatives to locking multiple locks together is www.themultilock@aol.com

Winston McKee

Posted by: Winston McKee at February 22, 2007 09:04 PM