Home security systems are devices that detect intrusion. While people have an idea in their head of what a security system should be, the concept has existed for centuries. Every generation of mankind has needed protection of some form or another and they couldn’t always stay awake with a weapon to do the job themselves.

Not many people consider the history of home security systems but these historical devices could help you learn how to defend your home. These tactics and methods worked for centuries and may have helped your ancestors survive.

Ancient Surveillance

Modern people don’t give enough credit to people in the past. Ancient civilizations often came up with clever solutions for problems that have plagued mankind for generations. And sometimes, these solutions solve more than one problem.

Take into account baolis, which were developed in India during the 3rd century. A baoli is basically a stepwell, or vertical column of water that can be accessed at numerous points underground. These wells became incredibly important to ancient Indian culture and many have been decorated with intrinsic detail. However, one of the more fascinating uses of a baoli comes from a Muslim temple in Lucknow, India. What makes this baoli particularly interesting is its dual use as a well and surveillance system.

To use a baoli, people need to take a series of steps down to the well where water can be drawn. Obviously, this area is much cooler and baolis quickly became congregation spots during hot Indian summers. What’s this got to do with home security? The baoli was incredibly important to any large residence (usually palaces reserved for royalty) and needed to be protected. The baoli at the Muslim temple in Lucknow was designed so that people near the water could see the elevated entrance to the well. Check out the picture below:

The well water basically serves to reflect the entrance to the baoli. The setup is impressive, if a little confusing but it worked. The well at Lucknow is still potable and safe for human consumption.

Rome Gets Serious

In the history of home security, few developments are more important than the creation of the lock. While other civilizations had created locks long before, the Romans took the concept to a whole new level. Along with door locks, excavations of Roman ruins have found strongboxes and safety deposit boxes with tumbler locks and padlocks. The earliest known examples of such locks date back over 2,000 years.

Home Security Goes Medieval

Humans have been worrying about defending their homes since the advent of agriculture. The Romans, Greeks, Chinese, and Egyptians each had their own approach to home security but few took it to the same level that Europeans did during the Dark Ages.

Following the fall of Rome, Europe quickly fell into chaos as new rulers fought for their share of the once great empire. To defend their new kingdoms, these rulers would build massive fortifications, known as castles, that could withstand attack for months, even years, on end. Some of the more innovative developments created by these paranoid Europeans include towers designed for defense and double-defended gates that could trap intruders inside. Of course, security measures during medieval times were a little more vicious than modern methods but they were effective. Castles protected kings and peasants alike for over 800 years but they proved little use against newer technologies, such as cannons.

Patent Number 9802

The modern burglary system is a relatively recent development in human history but the first designs go back further than most people realize. Credit for the first modern, patented home alarm system goes to Augustus Pope in 1853. Pope’s simple alarm used an electrical circuit rigged to a bell to sound an alarm whenever a door or window was opened. Of course, the problem with Pope’s design was that the alarm would stop once the opened door or window was closed. Pope sold his patent to Edwin Holmes who is now known as “The Father of the Modern Security Industry”. Holmes obtained the patent for a total of $9800 in 1858, which is worth about $250,000 in 2012. Pope died shortly after selling his patent but he left an indelible mark on home security.

The Revolution Will Be Monitored

The modern burglar alarm was just one half of the modern home security system; the revolution had yet to be monitored. E.A. Calahan was responsible for the first monitored fire and burglar alarms in 1871. His system used telegraph signals and was ahead of its time, going so far as to develop the central monitoring station to keep track of alarms. Calahan was a prolific inventor during his life time. His creations include the stock ticker, ticker tape, and the multiplex telegraph system. Today, security monitoring is accomplished through landline phone, cellular, or broadband internet connections. Though the technology may have changed, Calahan’s basic model for central monitoring stations is still in place today.

Marie Brown Has Her Eye On You

Some home security devices are strange and a little humorous. It’s easy to imagine people thinking the same thing of Marie Brown’s visual security system when it debuted in 1966. To be fair, Brown’s invention was a little unwieldy and expensive. However, she did create the first CCTV surveillance system. Brown’s version used a series of peep holes and a mechanized track to keep the camera hidden. Though the device proved to be commercially unsuccessful, Brown was widely recognized for her achievement. She lived most of her life in Queens, New York, where she died in 1999 at the age of 76.