In 1851, London was hosting the Great Exhibition—the first
international exhibition of manufactured products. One of the attendees
was A.C. Hobbs, an American locksmith. Back in the States, Hobbs had
made a name for himself by showing bank managers that their locks could
be easily picked and convincing them to buy one of his. Hobbs was
selling lots of locks this way. On the first day of the exhibition,
Hobbs publicly announced that he would pick the Chubb detector lock—the
one that stops working if you pick it incorrectly.
A witness wrote that it took Hobbs about 25 minutes. And the
way Hobbs did it was to use the lock against itself. He would pick it
until he tripped the detector mechanism, causing the lock to seize up.
That would give Hobbs information about how it worked, and then he would
pick the lock in the opposite direction to reset the detector. He’d go
back and forth firing and resetting the detector until the lock told him
everything he needed to know about how to get it open.