Magnetic striped media are used by more than 80% of the world’s population. They are swiped through slot readers more than 50 billion times a year. They are used for financial transactions, in automatic teller machines, mass transit access, identification and access control devices and their information content is specified by national and international standards.
Magnetic striped media design is surviving through subsequent technologies. Smart Cards with embedded chips in their media are still striped for transition and backup and the mobile phone when used as a payment device emits the same data stream as recorded on standard striped media.
The “simple” magnetic striped media was the combination of solutions to four different technical challenges. The first was mastering the how to apply magnetics to the surfaces of plastic cards or paper tickets. The second challenge was the specification of recordings which allow multiple industry use; the third challenge was the design of the accepting units to allow successful use of the media by the world’s population. The fourth challenge was design of the security system to control the use of an easily-read and recorded media.
Originally, the IBM development group for magnetic striped media faced rejection by engineering and marketing staffs. Engineering opposed the apparent lack of security. Marketing opposed a solution which was competitive with an alternative technology proposed by a major IBM customer.
This lecture will recount these events, the key players/organizations, and the answer to how magnetic media has become a technology used worldwide in such a wide variety of applications. Mr. Svigals is a former IBM executive and was the IBM development manager for magnetic media during the formative period of 1968 to 1973. He has since written 26 books on cards and payments. Svigals will conclude his talk with a brief projection of the media based industry through 2020.
Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Boulevard
Mountain View, CA, 94043