Magnetic-Stripe Cards: The Consolidating Force

Magnetic-Stripe Cards: The Consolidating Force

Katina Michael (University of Wollongong, Australia) and M.G. Michael (University of Wollongong, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-795-9.ch006
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Abstract

Almost simultaneously that the retail industry underwent revolutionary changes with the introduction of bar code, the financial industry adopted magnetic-stripe card technology. What is of interest is that both bar code and magnetic-stripe card enjoyed limited exposure when they were first introduced in the late 1960s. It took at least a decade for the technologies to become widespread. Each overcame a variety of obstacles. Coupled together the two techniques were major innovations that affected the way that consumers carried out their day-to-day tasks. The technologies were complementary; on the one hand were the actual commodities consumers purchased and on the other was the means with which they purchased them. Yet, the bar code differed from magnetic-stripe card in that it was more a service offered by retailers to consumers, with the primary focus being to make business back-end operations more efficient. The magnetic-stripe card however, had a more direct and personal impact on the cardholder, as it was the individual’s responsibility to maintain it. The consumer had to carry it, use it appropriately, and was liable for it in every way. Certainly bar codes on cards were being used early on but they were far less secure than magnetic stripe cards and therefore not adopted by financial institutions. Before too long, magnetic-stripe cards became synonymous with the withdrawal of cash and the use of credit which acted to heighten the importance of the auto-ID technology. Even today, magnetic-stripe cards for financial transaction cards dominate the market.
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Magnetic-Stripe Card Technology

Almost simultaneously that the retail industry underwent revolutionary changes with the introduction of bar code, the financial industry adopted magnetic-stripe card technology. What is of interest is that both bar code and magnetic-stripe card enjoyed limited exposure when they were first introduced in the late 1960s. It took at least a decade for the technologies to become widespread. Each overcame a variety of obstacles. Coupled together the two techniques were major innovations that affected the way that consumers carried out their day-to-day tasks. The technologies were complementary; on the one hand were the actual commodities consumers purchased and on the other was the means with which they purchased them. Yet, the bar code differed from magnetic-stripe card in that it was more a service offered by retailers to consumers, with the primary focus being to make business back-end operations more efficient. The magnetic-stripe card however, had a more direct and personal impact on the cardholder, as it was the individual’s responsibility to maintain it. The consumer had to carry it, use it appropriately, and was liable for it in every way. Certainly bar codes on cards were being used early on but they were far less secure than magnetic stripe cards and therefore not adopted by financial institutions. Before too long, magnetic-stripe cards became synonymous with the withdrawal of cash and the use of credit which acted to heighten the importance of the auto-ID technology. Even today, magnetic-stripe cards for financial transaction cards dominate the market.

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