WHEN I first heard about Chip and PIN, I thought it was the cartoon adventures of a chipmunk and a sausage dog. Or a second-rate pop group from the Seventies.

Little did I realise it was another headache designed specifically to tax my addled brain and test me to the limits with another bundle of numbers to remember.

Too much information! Everything I own in life seems to be accessed only by code number. If I want to get into my own home I have to remember a four-digit number to silence the burglar alarm before the neighbours come tearing round with baseball bats.

If I want to pay-to-view for a film on Sky TV, they want to know my pin number. When I turn up for work and switch on my computer, it refuses to speak to me until I've keyed in a complicated code. That's after I have stuck my entry card in a slot and, guess what, keyed in my personal code to get into the building. There's also another keypad to open the office car park gates.

Oh, there's also a four-digit number to lock my mobile phone in case it gets stolen and some vindictive so-and-so rings the speaking clock in Tokyo and leaves it connected for days.

I have to have a password to speak to my internet service provider or my credit card companies just to prove I am who I say I am, even though they probably have a webcam installed in my home and they know more about me than my wife does.

And, apparently, it is all for my own good. It's there to stop my identity being stolen. What's so bad about having your identity nicked? If I lost my identity, I'd just order another one, this time something of my own choosing. I'd opt for a younger model, one with hair, good looks and a pin-sharp memory for remembering code numbers.

My problem is I hail from another era, might as well be another planet. I remember the halcyon days when doors were opened not by a beep-beep-beep but by a key - or cash.

It wasn't long ago, but I recall when a signature was enough to access my own money, instead of poking hell out of a keypad while I protect it from prying eyes with my arm like a kid in a school exam.

Contrary to public opinion, I'm not thick or senile, but I find that standing at a till is like being back in school. "Insert your car in the slot" - yes, ma'am. "Key in your PIN number then press Enter" - yes, ma'am. "No, I said press Enter" - sorry ma'am. "Now remove your card" - can I go now? Have I paid? Will I set off the alarm when I leave?

The trouble is I have quite a few credit cards. When I open my wallet a concertina of plastic stretches down to the ground. Each one has a PIN number which we are not allowed to write down but have to remember. Impossible. So I wrote them all out in code in various slots of my wallet and then couldn't remember the code I'd devised to work them out.

So now I have the numbers tattooed deep in my armpit like a Nazi SS membership number. It's a bit embarrassing getting my shirt off in the supermarket check-out and asking the till girl to read it out to me, but at least it's secure.

You know these TV money-lender adverts where you are advised to consolidate your loans into one manageable monthly payment. That's the thing to do with all your PIN numbers. Get them all the same.

It can't be your birthday, though, someone might guess it.

How about a four-digit sequence of something that is of real significance in your life? That's easy - the number of personal key codes you have to let you get on with living.

Updated: 11:06 Tuesday, February 14, 2006