Skip navigation.

How the first magnetically stripped plastic cards utilizing the Bar Code were developed at IBM IRD in Dayton, N.J.

After working for a Small Electronics Company called Taft Electro Systems in Woodbridge, N.J., I was hired on Aug 12, 1969 by IBM IRD (Information Records Division) in Dayton, N.J. to develop the first bar code digitally encoded plastic credit and ATM cards.
At Taft, I had just completed designing and building a mobile computer which was installed in a van at Grumman Aviation Air Field on Long Island, N.Y.. Grumman was developing a fire control system for a fighter bomber for the US Government. In order to improve the turn around time for analyzing the digital magnetic recorder in the plane which recorded the test flight's performance, they contracted Taft Electro Systems to develop a computer in a van which they could drive up to the plane after the test pilot landed to analyze the flight by downloading the data off the flight recorder. Before they had the portable computer, they had to take the tape out of the plane and anaylyze the flight at an offsite location which limited the number of test flights they could perform in a day which increased costs dramaticlly. The test pilot and plane would sit around waiting for the engineers to analyze the tape which always resulted in some "tweeking" of the plane's fire control system before the test pilot could perform another test flight. This normally took a minimum of one day. With the new portable computer, they could drive the van up to the plane after a test flight and by analyzing the digital tape recorder right in the plane, the engineers could "tweek" the plane right there and have the test pilot immediatly take off for another test flight. It worked like a charm.
Because of this experience I was the ideal candidate for the job at IBM IRD to develop the mag stripped cards.
I was hired by David Morgan who described what IRD's initial proposal was to design and build a fully automated production line for the encoding, embossing, and data read back and varification (both electronic off the mag strip and optical off the printed mailer address form), for the production of magnetically encoded (utilizing the IBM Bar Code) magnetically stripped plastic cards. IRD made the consumable products (cards, tape, etc) for IBM equipment and saw the encoded plastic card as just another consumable product that IRD could manufacture.