Fun Fact Friday – Invention of bank cards

In 1960, while at IBM, Forrest Parry invented the magnetic stripe now used on bank cards.

He had the idea of glueing short pieces of magnetic tape to each plastic card, but they didn’t stay on. When he returned home, his wife was ironing some clothes. Forrest told his wife about his problem and she suggested using an iron to melt the stripe onto the card. He tried it, it worked, and the bank card was born.

In the main, this seems like a straightforward solution. On further investigation, the work to develop the card continued for many years to achieve the desired result. The design brief was twofold – to adhere the magnetic strip to the plastic securely and to keep the data safe. A complex task requiring a great understanding of the materials involved. Decades later and the bank card is commonplace and a necessity for many people.

Why this fact? Put simply, I like it. I like that it demonstrates that virtually every problem can be overcome. We know from experience, that initial ideas come in all forms. Some of our clients know exactly what they need, but for others, the idea is a simple sketch needing a full transformation into something tangible. We happily work with either scenario and the start to the process is the same – a conversation to understand the purpose of your project and what your requirements. This was the case again this week when speaking to a new client. Their product exists without CAD data. We will use our reverse engineering technology to provide compatible, CAD data for the client. It’s exciting to expand our expertise into this new industry and knowing the data will be used internationally. You can see more about this service on our website.

Apple Watch Charging base

I also like how the solution to the bank card problem has been used to successfully develop other products. ID badges, travel cards, access swipe cards etc – all everyday things that stem from the original engineering to create a reliable, safe bank card. Born from an iron, at home, the fact is a good reminder of the hands-on, persistent and innovative – fundamentals we employ here at WHC. Technology progresses, and we now see smartphones and watches replacing bank cards. In fact, I design a charging base for a smartwatch a little while ago.

I started my career as apprentice toolmaker and believe my practical experience is a great asset to my designing. I was reflecting on my apprenticeship this week and took a little trip down memory lane. You can read about on our blog – I hope it’s helpful to any budding engineers or a bit nostalgic for more experienced peers. I had a good time learning my trade and still work with those contacts now designing new pieces.

We’re only a telephone or Zoom call away so please get in touch to start a conversation about your idea.

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